NeXUS Laser Brings New Capabilities in Ultrafast Science to the U.S.

Karen Keller General News

A hydraulic gantry is used to place the laser components onto the optical table in the NeXUS lab. A total of 12 crates of custom components were shipped from Jena, Germany to the NeXUS Facility in Columbus, Ohio.

On the heels of the Nobel committee’s recognition of the field of attosecond science with the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics, the NeXUS Facility at The Ohio State University received the NeXUS Laser – a first-in-the-U.S. kilowatt-class laser that will make state-of-the-art ultrafast technology with attosecond to femtosecond light pulses available to users across a wide range of disciplines. 

The NeXUS (National eXtreme Ultrafast Science) facility was established in 2019 with an award from the National Science Foundation and support from Ohio State. The goal of the NeXUS facility is to bring cutting-edge ultrafast laser technology to the United States, enabling the study and control of matter at scales of individual electrons and atoms and bridging the gap between commonly available benchtop lasers and the cutting-edge capabilities of the world’s most high-end synchrotron facilities. 

Technicians from AFS install laser mechanical components in the NeXUS lab at the Ohio State University. Multiple AFS teams will travel to the NeXUS Facility to complete the installation of the laser and train the NeXUS staff on its operation.

The heart of the NeXUS Facility is the NeXUS Laser. Manufactured by Active Fiber Systems (AFS) in Jena, Germany, the NeXUS Laser will produce infrared light pulses at high average power and fast repetition rates, enabling measurements that currently can only be made at a handful of labs worldwide. The NeXUS Laser drives High Harmonic Generation to generate extreme ultraviolet light pulses with attosecond resolution. The NeXUS system builds on the advances in attosecond science that earned Anne L’Huillier, Ferenc Krausz, and Ohio State Professor Emeritus Pierre Agostini the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2023. An attosecond is an incredibly small unit of time – a billionth of a billionth of a second. By generating pulses of light only a few attoseconds long, scientists at NeXUS will be able to observe, measure, and manipulate the movement of electrons and atoms within materials.   

Advances in ultrafast research made possible at NeXUS will enable discoveries in a diverse array of fields, such as materials science, renewable energy, medical diagnostics and pharmaceuticals, information technology, and more. Interested researchers are invited to visit the NeXUS facility July 23-24, for the third NeXUS User Workshop, where they can tour the lab, meet the NeXUS team, learn how to submit proposals, and network across disciplines. 

NeXUS construction has been led by Dr. Robert Baker, Chemistry, and Dr. Louis DiMauro, Physics, with critical support from both departments, ERIK, the College of Arts & Sciences, and the College of Engineering. The NeXUS Laser is now in use, supporting experiments to verify the facility’s diverse measurement capabilities. Once verified, NeXUS will become an open-access user facility, providing researchers with no-cost access to the most advanced characterization tools in the world and filling a key strategic gap in the U.S. research infrastructure. 

 “It is really exciting to be a part of this effort that will take the unique ability to characterize molecules and materials on the fastest scales of time and make them available to the entire scientific community through this new open access, national user facility.  As a partnership between Ohio State and the NSF, NeXUS is poised to have a significant impact on the future of ultrafast science in the US and abroad.”