High-intensity Laser-Matter Interactions and Applications Laboratory

The High-intensity Laser-Matter Interactions and Applications Laboratory is part of ALLS. The ALLS facility’s SPACE laser (a French acronym for Power system for the electromagnetic control of matter) is the only laser of its kind in North America, and the most powerful pulse laser currently in operation in the < 20 fs range.

Photo : Christian Fleury

The power output of this 200 TW laser (5J, 30fs, 10Hz) has been boosted to 750TW. The SPACE laser, which came online in 2017, delivers 13 J in 17 fs (750TW) with a repetition rate of 2.5 Hz. It is associated with various beamlines, including an x-ray line (imaging and absorption spectroscopy) and particle lines (electrons and ions). A radio-protected area allows for the use of photons and ultra-high-energy particles.

Scientific activities at the High-intensity Laser-Matter Interactions and Applications Laboratory are conducted with partners and users. These activities involve:

  • Strong-field physics
  • Relativistic plasma physics
  • X-ray radiation sources and applications in biomedicine (small animal imaging, cancer) and food safety
  • Particle sources (electrons and protons) for materials analysis and the safety and detection of prohibited products
  • Next-generation accelerators and 5th generation light sources

Work at the lab has industrial impacts (with specific stakeholders and partners) for the control of complex materials and components, security and defence, and selective agriculture, among others.

The total area currently allocated to the SPACE system and the associated experiments and service areas is 290 m2. For historic reasons, the SPACE laser and beamlines are installed in two separate rooms separated by a corridor. The laser room is equipped with a compressor and experimental chamber enabling the use of the full-aperture beam (20 cm diameter) at full power (750TW, 17fs) for experiments requiring highly stable, high-precision laser pointing (400 nm in the far field of the beam) without the need for radio-protection.

At reduced aperture, a portion of the beam (10 cm diameter) can be offset prior to compression and sent via a primary vacuum transport beamline to the X-ray laboratory where the secondary beamlines are located. The maximum laser power available on target is 250TW. The lab is divided into three parts made up of i) a compressor (pulses limited to 22fs), a beam handling and diagnostic area, and a control and data acquisition station; ii) a radio-protected area for the electron acceleration line (GeV) and the generation and use of energetic X-rays (10keV and above); and iii) a proton beam application area (10MeV maximum). There are two other small laboratories used for the preparation of samples and optics and for the preparation and calibration of cameras and diagnostic systems.

ALLS is open to scientists from outside INRS, as is the SPACE laser and its associated beamlines. The SPACE laser recently became part of LaserNetUS, a network of North American laser facilities. Calls for use proposals for the SPACE laser will be posted in 2021. The cost of SPACE beamline access is $20,000 per week.

Biomedical imaging and food safety

The laboratory provides users with access to a unique synchrotron X-ray source (10keV – 100keV) based on powerful lasers. This hard X-ray source, which has an exceptional flux of 5 x 109 photons/0:1% bandwidth/sr/shot at 30 keV and very high coherence, can be used for a wide variety of applications, including coherent phase-contrast X-ray imaging, in areas such as biomedicine, selective agriculture, and pump-probe spectroscopy on femtosecond time scales. The ALLS SPACE laser imaging techniques and X-ray source are used in a Canadian program related to global food security. What makes the ALLS X-source unique in Canada is its spectral range in the X-ray domain, its spatial coherence offering micrometric spatial resolutions in imaging, its compactness, and a pulse duration in the ten femtosecond range ideal for probing ultrafast processes in complex matter.

Materials science and cultural heritage

The lab also has a beamline dedicated to laser ion acceleration and related applications. The high brightness beam is a highly compact particle source that can be used to obtain protons with an energy in the ten MeV range, with about 1012 protons per laser shot produced at the source in less than a picosecond. The source can be used for field imaging and material characterization using the laser PIX technique, and opens the door to new applications in biology, material sciences, and cultural heritage.

The High-intensity Laser-Matter Interactions and Applications Laboratory is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation (MEI), Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et Technologies (FQRNT), contracts with private partners, and fee-based users.


Jean-Claude Kieffer



High-intensity Laser-Matter Interactions and Applications Laboratory

Institut national de la recherche scientifique

Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications Research Centre

1650 boulevard Lionel-Boulet

Varennes, Quebec J3X 1S2

Website http://inf.emt.inrs.ca/?q=en/ALLS

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