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IMPULSE Successfully Advances High-Power Laser Science at ELI

24 Apr 2024

The Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) has transitioned from construction into sustainable operations enabled by the IMPULSE (Integrated Management and Reliable Operations for User–based Laser Scientific Excellence) project. The nearly 20 million EUR project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, fostered key scientific and technological advancements, and core missions for ELI, including the integration of the Facilities and the establishment of the user access programme.

“While IMPULSE is coming to an end the momentum will propel ELI for the future,” remarked Professor Zeyrek, the project’s expert reviewer, reflecting on the project’s impact. “IMPULSE has resolved many operational bottlenecks, establishing ELI as a leader in high-power, high-repetition rate laser research.” This notion was echoed at the project’s closing meeting held in Brussels on 17 April 2024 with all project partners and the project administrators from the European Commission’s Research Executive Agency in attendance.

The completion of the 42-month IMPULSE project not only facilitated high-quality scientific activities but also paved the way for future research that leverages the unique capabilities of the ELI Facilities. The project’s conclusion heralds continued innovation and collaboration in close cooperation with a network of 14 partners from 9 countries.

The support from the European Commission was instrumental for the integration of the ELI ALPS and ELI Beamlines Facilities under a unified governance and single management structure under the ELI ERIC to jointly operate the two research facilities establishing standardised practices across the organisation. The project also provided an avenue for cooperation between the ELI Facilities and key laser research institutes in Europe.

“IMPULSE stands as a testament to our collective scientific spirit and will continue to guide ELI,” said Allen Weeks, Director General of ELI ERIC and Project Leader. “This spirit is evident in the relationships that have been formed and strengthened through the project’s tenure which establish a robust base for future collaborations.”

IMPULSE has brought a number of significant results for ELI as a whole. Notably, the integration of the Facilities into one organisation much of which was supported by Work Package 2 which prepared the legal framework for the integrations, defined key policies and processes and facilitated the development of common ERP and IT systems. These efforts will continue beyond IMPULSE but a critical foundation is in place for ELI to operate as a single organisation, offering user services in a unified way.

Work Packages 3 established standard operating procedures to align practices across the 3 Facilities. Key results include, setting up a database for the spare parts data management and accessibility (PANDA) across the ELI sites and gathering the scientific community and industrial partners for a workshop on the standardisation of metrology procedures for lasers and secondary sources (STAMPLASS 2023) gathered partners and industry to agree on common approaches to support coherence in the field.

Work Package 4, focused on ensuring quality and reliable supply of critical state-of-the-art optical components, which are crucial to enhance the capabilities and attractiveness of the ELI Facilities with key technologies and enhanced experiments. One of the main deliverables, the ELIAS coating system will help the long-term sustainability of key optical components for high-power laser facilities. Additionally, the WP pushed forward developments in standardised target design for experiments, established guidelines for optimisation of LIDT of key optical components, and employed machine learning to find error patterns and improve operational efficiency.

One of the key achievements came out of Work Package 5 with the establishment of an ELI-wide User Office and the successful launch of the Joint ELI User Programme. This was made possible with the development of a dedicated User Portal, common processes and guidelines, and a unified training system to make sure that the same high-quality user access and services are provided at all the ELI Facilities. In total 227 proposals from 28 countries were submitted in the first 3 Calls, with the 4th ELI Call for Users currently open until the end of April. Launching 4 User Calls within 2 years has achieved a core mission for ELI and opened the Facilities for scientific users.

Work Package 6 developed an ELI-wide ecosystem for innovation with the ELI Innovation Board, and the ILO (Industry Liaison Office) network to enable further engagement with industrial partners. ELI will build on the shared approach to knowledge transfer and industrial access to maximise ELI’s impact in the future.

Work Package 7 promoted and implemented a broad range of communications activities for using IMPULSE not only to promote the project but to start to unify and harmonise the communication of the ELI Facilities in general to increase the impact of the outreach activities overall. IMPULSE facilitated more than 250 activities during the project period in total: 23 conferences and 18 workshops organised, participation in 64 scientific conferences, 15 exhibitions, and 9 trade fairs, more than 20 pitch events organised.

The IMPULSE project may have reached its conclusion, but the shared activities will continue to shape the landscape of high-power laser science in Europe. As the project’s efforts unify the ELI Facilities, it promises to enhance the scientific discourse and foster innovation. The collaborative spirit ignited by IMPULSE is set to persist, amplifying the project’s impact well beyond its scope. and nurturing future cooperation.