Jun Ren, a Delaware State University assistant professor of physics and engineering, was awarded a three-year $946,372 National Science Foundation grant in support of her laser research.

The project, titled “Seeding Stimulated Raman Backscattering with Intense and Ultra-Intense Laser Pulses,” will study the use of plasma as a medium for laser amplification.

While the maximum achievable output power and intensity of lasers using solid-state materials are eventually limited by the damage of the material under high laser intensities, plasma is a more promising alternative medium. Ren’s research will further explore that alternative.

Joining Ren, the principal investigator of the grant, in the research are co-PIs Essaid Zerrad, professor of physics and engineering, and Szymon Suckewer, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University. The researchers will also utilize the Jupiter Laser Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to expand and explore light-matter interactions under conditions of extreme fields.

In addition to the science benefits, Ren said developing a program for studying laser-plasma interaction will broaden and enhance the research spectrum of physics and engineering at DSU.

“Being multi-disciplinary involving laser physics and engineering, plasma physics, ultrafast science and computational physics, this project will provide training opportunities for students to be exposed to frontiers of laser-plasma research, modern clustered computing and cutting edge experimental techniques in lasers and optics such as ultrashort pulse lasers and laser spectroscopy,” said Ren. “It will include access to high-performance computing and advanced experimental capabilities at national user facilities and national labs. The collaborations in the project will also enrich and foster the inter-communications and research exchanges between DSU and other optical centers and research labs in the nation, and help to initiate new research areas based on our strengths. It also supports the long-term life cycle of research and education activities of DSU and its Delaware Institute of Science & Technology and Division of Physics and Computational Sciences.”

This sentiment was echoed by Vyacheslav Lukin, National Science Foundation’s Program Director for Plasma Physics, who will oversee this grant.

"We trust that this high-risk high-reward multi-institution project will pay-off not only in advancing our scientific capabilities but also in strengthening cross-disciplinary connections at DSU and elsewhere,” said Lukin. “The technology potential of tabletop high-intensity ultra-short pulse lasers is difficult to overestimate, as it spans the range from medical to energy to national security applications.”