STFC’s Central Laser Facility develops £10 million laser system with the help of Tessella

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HiLASE research facility in Prague to use the most advanced high power pulse laser of its kind

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The size and sheer complexity of the system, and the amount of devices to control - such as mirrors and the vast number of cameras – means that a highly capable and advanced control system needed to be in place...

Data analytics expert Tessella has helped the UK’s Central Laser Facility (CLF), part of The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), in its development of an advanced high-powered laser, created to help aid research and development in the scientific community. CLF was tasked to develop a laser system for the HiLASE research facility and Tessella joined the project to create and build bespoke software to enable control of the laser. Through using innovative design techniques, the resulting product created has all the capabilities of a high-powered laser, while also possessing a high repetition rate which is not typically found in such high energy models.

The new laser technology for HiLASE, a project in the Czech Republic tagged ‘New lasers for industry and research’, will benefit industry and science in areas ranging from welding to testing the resistance of optical materials. The setup will provide a laser capability significantly more powerful, efficient and stable than current systems across Europe.

Until now there have either been high energy lasers which are limited to the order of pulses per hour or systems that produce many pulses per second but only at relatively low energy levels. The combination of the two paves the way for a broad field of new applications.

This project is a superb example of the UK’s science capabilities being recognised internationally and leading to other countries’ major science facilities actively seeking to work with us. This project showcases not only what the CLF team can currently do but also acknowledges the fact that the possibilities with this new laser and what it could achieve are endless.

The usual control software used in lasers is typically closed and not able to communicate with other parts of the system, leaving us with a collection of devices that require a manual mode of operation. In contrast, for this project one single system was developed that meant that this new connectivity gave access to an entirely new level of automation, which is highly beneficial to users.

Tessella developed complete control system software, allowing scientists to operate the entire laser system and its sub-components remotely via a single integrated software solution. Working with STFC, Tessella implemented high-level automation software aiming for a ‘turn-key’ operation of the laser by integrating all of the low-level devices together into an overarching control solution, including solutions such as automatic beam steering and alignment, timing systems, as well as watchdogs and machine safety software to shut down the laser in case of emergencies or when critical alarms are raised by the sub-systems.

David Michel, Software Engineer at Tessella explained: “The size and sheer complexity of the system, and the amount of devices to control - such as mirrors and the vast number of cameras – means that a highly capable and advanced control system needed to be in place that could unify these different assets and ensure it worked quickly and efficiently.”

Alan Gaby, Chief Executive at Tessella added: “We are delighted to have contributed to the success of this programme, Tessella excels in areas of complexity and innovation and this laser is truly a one of a kind, there’s never been anything like it before. We would like to congratulate STFC on this remarkable achievement”


About Tessella
Tessella is an international analytics and data science consulting services company. We are known for finding and delivering innovative and pragmatic answers to the complex business and technical challenges of some of the world’s most forward-thinking organisations in the aerospace and defence, consumer goods, energy, life sciences and science research sectors. We are innovative problem solvers, passionate about science and technology, committed to excellence, and to our clients’ success. Tessella is part of the Altran Group, a global leader in innovation and high-tech engineering consulting.

About STFC
The Science and Technology Facilities Council is keeping the UK at the forefront of international sci-ence and tackling some of the most significant challenges facing society such as meeting our future energy needs, monitoring and understanding climate change, and global security.
The Council has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise in materials science, space and ground-based astronomy technologies, laser science, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing, particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications and radar.

STFC operates or hosts world class experimental facilities including in the UK the ISIS pulsed neutron source, the Central Laser Facility, and LOFAR, and is also the majority shareholder in Diamond Light Source Ltd.

It enables UK researchers to access leading international science facilities by funding membership of international bodies including European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO). STFC is one of seven publicly-funded research councils. It is an independent, non-departmental public body of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

About CLF
The Central Laser Facility (CLF) at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) (an institution for the Science and Technology Facilities Council, near Oxford, UK) is one of the world’s leading laser facilities providing scientists from the UK and Europe with an unparalleled range of state-of-the-art laser technology. The CLF’s wide ranging applications include experiments in physics, chemistry and biology, accelerating subatomic particles to high energies, probing chemical reactions on the shortest timescales and studying biochemical and biophysical process critical to life itself.

From advanced, compact, tuneable lasers which can pinpoint individual particles to high power laser installations that recreate the conditions inside stars, a vigorous development programme ensures that our facilities maintain their international competitiveness.

About HiLASE
The main goal of the HiLASE project is to develop laser technologies having breakthrough technical parameters. In general, those lasers will be significantly more powerful and efficient, more compact, more stable and more easily maintained than the currently available technology.

The HiLASE project focuses on development high-repetition lasers and laser systems that will find use in industry, in small- and medium-scale research laboratories and in the future European large-scale facilities that will be part of the European Research Area (ERA). The project will specifically focus on diode pumped solid state laser systems (DPSSLs) and on the development of associated technologies.

The HiLASE laser centre with these parameters will be unique not only in the Czech Republic but also in Europe. This brings new opportunities for European research and for companies that will be able to benefit and contribute to applying these new technologies.

The project has great application potential in the commercial sphere. Outputs of the project will be used e.g. for micro-machining technologies, testing resistance of optical materials, cutting, welding, removal of deposits and laser peening.

More about HiLASE:

Media contacts:
Amita Hanspal
Proof Communication
Tel: +44 (0)208 816 8002
Email: amita(at)proofcommunication(dot)com

Christina Tealdi
Tel: +44 (0) 7799346453
Email: christina.tealdi(at)tessella(dot)com

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Christina Tealdi
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