Laser lab to receive $99.4M in federal funds

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The University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics is slated to receive $99.4 million in fiscal 2024 for its Omega laser facility.

The funds, which come from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s Inertial Confinement Fusion program, was included in a “minibus” package of six appropriations bills.

The new funding will be used to conduct research in support of the NNSA’s Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program, which maintains the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, UR officials say. It will also enable the facility to continue its work in fusion and understanding matter at extreme conditions, and ensure that researchers can access the facilities into the 2030s.

“Every year, our facilities conduct 80 percent of the NNSA’s sponsored high-energy-density and fusion shots for the national laboratories’ and other academic researchers,” says Chris Deeney, director of LLE. 

The laser lab, which hosts the Omega laser facility, is  the largest university-based Department of Energy program with the largest academic lasers in the world. More than half of the 2,100 experiments each year are conducted by 100 national and international researchers who visit Rochester to add their expertise to the work being conducted by LLE’s own scientific and engineering team, officials say. 

“The increased investment in LLE will ensure experimenters have a high-quality facility not only in 2024, but also in 2034 and beyond,” Deeney says.

The federal funds also support a skilled workforce at the lab– more than 1,000 workers, including 450 scientists and engineers. The Omega laser facility is the only site that trains graduate students in internal confinement fusion and high-energy density science and attracts top scientists and engineers.

“At the forefront of laser fusion and high-energy-density-science research for more than 50 years, the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics is internationally recognized for developing innovative technologies and scientific breakthroughs,” notes University President Sarah Mangelsdorf. 

Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Joseph Morelle played an instrumental role in securing the funds for the lab.

“The University of Rochester Laser Lab research is essential for our national security and is vital to our regional economy, employing hundreds of scientists and bringing millions into the Rochester area every year,” Schumer says. 

Established in 1970, the laser lab investigates the interaction of intense radiation with matter. The lab, which also receives annual support from New York State, is currently exploring fusion for national security and as a future source of energy, developing new laser and materials technologies, and better understanding high-energy-density phenomena.

““The Laboratory for Laser Energetics has cemented its place as a world-class institution and leader in innovative scientific research,” Morelle says.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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