Lasers take physicists back to school

The First International School on Laser Applications at Accelerators at GANIL in France brought together laser- and accelerator physicists

This week saw the First International School on Laser Applications at Accelerators held at GANIL in France. Organised by the LA³NET project – of which CERN is a partner – the school was a singular opportunity for accelerator and laser physicists to meet and discuss the future of the merging areas.

LA³NET is an EU-funded training network that has brought together 27 partner institutes to train early stage researchers in the field of laser applications. In the few months it has been running the network has already filled 15 of its 17 fellow positions, including three in CERN’s Beams and Engineering departments. The five-day International School on Laser Applications at Accelerators was the first big event LA3NET organized, uniting participants from inside the project and out.

“This was the first time a school has linked laser and accelerator physics at such a fundamental level,” says Carsten P. Welsch, former CERN fellow who now coordinates the LA3NET project from the Cockcroft Institute/University of Liverpool. “Though lasers are widely used nowadays, their integration at accelerator facilities is still a rather new research area and there is a lot to learn by our community. Because of that, participants from every career stage took part: from doctoral students and post-docs to experienced researchers.”

Around half the participants had backgrounds in laser physics and were interested in learning more about facilities exploiting their technology; the other half came from accelerator physics, hoping to learn more about the lasers they are now confronting in their laboratories. “The school provided an opportunity to link between these two areas, essentially showing that they are two sides of the same coin,” says Welsch. “We hoped to show that, on a very basic physics level, whether you talk about laser or radio frequency cavities, there are many similarities.”

The school was also a chance for participants to learn about the state of the field internationally, not only in academia but also in industry. LA3NET’s industrial partners were given two full of sessions to presentations that highlighted differences between research in industry and in academia.

LA³NET will be organizing a three-day workshop at CERN next February dealing with laser-ion sources and photo injectors. “The idea is to bring together the fellows who are working in this field – typically only 3 or 4 – with invited research leaders in that area,” says Welsch. “The workshop will also be open to people outside the network. We will organize a large number of such workshops over the next few years. Watch this space!”