Extreme Light facility promises Czech scientific community a bright future

The EU is helping to fund the construction of the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) in the Czech Republic. This international facility will enable scientists and researchers from all over the world to use new and emerging laser technologies in order to generate the most intense light pulses in the world.

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The project will result in the construction of a modern, cutting-edge laser facility in the Czech region of Central Bohemia, and is an important destination on the European roadmap towards next-generation research facilities. 

In this way, the project will help to ensure that Europe remains very much at the forefront of high-tech research. Furthermore, the project demonstrates what cross-border cooperation can achieve, with the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary involved in the construction of certain segments of the infrastructure. 

High-tech facilities

For this particular project, the Commission approved the allocation of over EUR 176 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to fund the first of two phases in the construction of ELI as part of the European roadmap for next generation major research facilities as identified by ESFRI (the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures). 

More specifically, the facility will consist of a modern specialised building of some 30 877 m2, which will be fully equipped with laser systems that provide six independent beamlines for six distinct research activities, each located in six different experimental halls.  

In addition, the facility will incorporate compressors of optical pulses, vacuum systems, computing facilities and data storage. Phase 1 also covers start up activities such as setting up of a technology transfer centre, library services and other general services required for the operation of a European Centre of Excellence.

Another important aspect of the facility is that it will provide European start-ups with the opportunity to use this cutting edge equipment. In this sense, the centre will facilitate collaborations, technology transfers and a meeting place for entrepreneurs and scientists alike. 

Regional benefits

The centre will also bring sustainable benefits to the local region. Some 255 new jobs are expected to be created, of which half will be scientific staff. Around 118 students and graduates per year will be involved in R&D activities of the centre. The aim is to help establish Central Bohemia as a centre of excellence, and to attract other research and business activities to the region. 

Next-generation technology for Europe

ELI will be an international network of facilities that uses cutting edge laser technologies to create the most intense light pulses available in laboratory conditions. Three ELI facilities are being built in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania, which will then be placed under the governance of a single European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC). The Commission recently approved the allocation of over EUR 250 million from the ERDF to support the development of the Hungarian facility in Szeged and of the Romanian facility in Măgurele.

These facilities will enable pioneering research in a number of research fields. The key instrument of ELI will be a large laser system delivering ultra-short pulses lasting typically a few femtoseconds (10-15 fs), while the generation of secondary sources of ultra-short and ultra-intense pulses of light and particles will allow for a broad spectrum of projects in chemistry, biology, medical technologies, development of new materials, and others.

In the field of fundamental research for example, it will be possible to experimentally study, for the first time, basic concepts of nonlinear quantum electrodynamics, the structure of vacuum, basic concepts of relativistic cosmology, and many others. In the field of applications and technology development, the new secondary laser-driven ultra-short pulses of radiation and particles will enable significant improvements in screening techniques in medical diagnostics and the testing of new materials for the development of nanomaterials.

Total investment and EU funding 

Total investment for project “ELI: Extreme Light Infrastructure” is EUR 294 697 178 with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 176 390 741 (Phase I) through the “Research and Development for Innovations” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “European Centres of Excellence”. The EU provided EUR 59 643 977 for Phase II of the project through the “Research, Development and Education” Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period.

Draft date