FAST Lab Manager

The FAST lab is managed by Dr Ben Mills, a specialist in ultrafast laser applications.

Tour the FAST Lab

Take a tour of the facilities, and see some typical experimental setups on this page.

How Fast is Ultrafast?

Very roughly speaking, a femtosecond is to a second what a second is to the lifetime of the universe so far.

In other words, it's a very short amount of time! The laser pulses dealt with in the FAST lab may only be a few 'wiggles' of light, but can be incredibly powerful.

A femtosecond is:

  • 10-15 seconds or
  • One quadrillionth of a second or
  • 0.000000000000001 seconds


Femtosecond Applications of Science and Technology

The Femtosecond Applications of Science and Technology (FAST) lab is a multi-user facility where a variety of ultrafast experiments are performed. Funded jointly by the ORC and the Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF), the FAST Lab opened in 2004.

The FAST Lab facility consists of three sections (one 'clean' lab dedicated to optical bio-science) and the other two supplied with femtosecond laser systems and optical tables with a total floor space of 72 square metres. The 1.1M installation and recent 300K upgrade provides the ORC and its collaborators with one of the most comprehensive and flexible commercial ultrafast laser system in the world.

The lab is available for hire, for academic or industrial research. See below for more details.

Lab Facilities

Lab floorplan | Laser System

The Laser System

The system is made up of 3 main sections:

  • The first section consists of the oscillator and amplifiers: a Coherent Mira laser oscillator which simultaneously seeds 2 amplifiers. The first amplifier is the high rep-rate Coherent RegA, and the second is a Legend which is designed as a low rep-rate, high energy laser. A total of 42W of pump power is derived from a Verdi V10, Verdi V18 and an Evolution 30 respectively.
  • The second and third sections of the system consist of various Optical Parametric Amplifiers (OPA), Difference Frequency Generators (DFG) and Second and Third Harmonic Generators (SHG, THG).
  • The second section is for the high rep-rate wing of the system and the third section is for the high energy wing of the system.

The flexibility of the system enables full wavelength tunability from 235nm to 10m, rep-rates of single-shot, 1kHz or 50kHz to 300kHz, pulse energies of nJ, J or mJ. The system operates with pulses of duration ranging 130fs to 200fs, with peak powers approaching 50GW. You can see a schematic of the system here or take a more detailed look here.

Hiring the FAST lab

The FAST Lab can be hired on a daily basis in order to assist your particular line of research. Whether you are a member of the ORC, a member of another department within this or another university, or even a scientist from industry or other research establishment, you are welcome to make use of the FAST Lab facility. Moreover, we are keen to establish collaborations with other experimentalists. Please contact Dr Ben Mills for more information.

Copyright University of Southampton 2006