PW1The High Intensity Laser Science Group studies the interaction of ultra-intense laser light with matter. These laser-matter interactions can create extreme and exotic conditions in the laboratory. This leads to application in diverse fields such as astrophysics, fusion research and ultrafast radiation source development.


  • Conduct research in laser driven HED science and shocked materials science and attract new students into these areas.
  • Train US citizen graduate students in these two areas.
  • Train students in how to plan and execute experiments on large scale HED facilities.
  • Develop novel and “high risk” HED diagnostics that could ultimately be fielded on the large HED facilities (NIF, Z and Omega).
  • Collaborate on many experiments with National Laboratory scientists to remain coupled to the labs and to expose students to the activities of the labs.
  • Partner with some of the DP labs on technical projects and some facilities development.
  • Existing large efforts in high intensity laser (Ditmire, Downer and Keto groups, with 25 students working on projects related to high power lasers and applications) operating numerous high peak power lasers including two multi-terawatt lasers:

THOR laser: 0.7 J in 35 fs @ 10 Hz
5 TW laser: 0.3 J in 60 fs @ 10 Hz

Texas Petawatt Laser

In 2008 we demonstrated operation of the Texas Petawatt Laser to the power of 1.1 Petawatt (1015 W) which is, to our knowledge, currently the world's highest laser power output. The pulse contained 186 J of energy and was only 167 fs in duration. The laser is based on optical parametric chirped pulse amplification (OPCPA) and mixed Nd:glass amplification. 

Experimental Focus

The TPW Science strategy has been developed with the goal of deriving high-quality science results from a carefully considered set of three primary topics:

  • Proton accelleration and proton beam isochoric heating of dense plasmas (led by Prof. Todd Ditmire)
  • Wakefield electron acceleration above a GeV (led by Prof. Mike Downer)
  • Fusion neutron generation in pulsed magnetic fields (led by Prof. Roger Bengtson in collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories)

While these are the top priority topics, we conduct research on a variety of high energy density science experiments.

Roger D Bengtson
Professor Emeritus

Experimental plasma physics; plasma spectroscopy
Todd Ditmire

Intense Ultrafast Laser Interactions; AMO; experimentalist
Michael Downer

Femtosecond spectroscopy in condensed matter and plasmas; surface nonlinear optics; plasma-based particle accelerators
John W Keto

Reactions and radiative processes of excited atoms and molecules; laser spectroscopy; high power lasers; clusters and nanoparticles.
Michael P Marder
Director, Academic Program, Professor

Mechanics of solids; Condensed matter theory
Gennady Shvets

Theory and Simulations: laser-plasma interactions; plasma based accelerators; photonics; nano-plasmonics; Experiment: phonon-assisted nanoli