The principal experimental resource at PALS is the high-power iodine laser system Asterix IV. This instrument was developed at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, and with the latest upgrade in 1991 it provided irradiation facility at the 1 kJ energy level until May 1997. It has been exploited by a wide international research community, within the European Large-Scale Facilities scheme.
The Czech Republic’s Academy of Sciences has become the operator of the Asterix laser following an Euratom-assented agreement with the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics, signed in June 1997. The funding needed to construct the PALS facility integrating the Asterix laser was approved in December 1997.The construction of the PALS building was completed in March 1999, the installation and commissioning of the laser and of the target facilities in December 1999. Successful operational tests performed in the period November 1999 – May 2000 were crowned by a festive launching of the completed laser system on June 8, 2000.
The facility has been serving its users since September 2000. It is exploited for research of interaction with matter of focused high-power laser beams of a power density of 1014-1016 W/cm2 and for studies of hot laser-produced plasmas. Main effort is aimed at various applications in science and technology of the hot laser plasma products, such as radiation and charged particles. The main lines of research of the laboratory are the following:
- development and application of plasma-based point sources of non-coherent soft x-rays,
- development and application of plasma-based soft x-ray lasers,
- development and application laser plasma sources of highly-charged high-energy ions,
- study of matter in conditions of extreme pressures and temperatures, with respect to the needs of material sciences, laboratory astrophysics, thermonuclear research and other scientific fields.
The PALS laser laboratory is open to both domestic and foreign researchers. In the years 2000-2003 the European experiments at PALS were supported from the 5th Framework Programme of EU, in the frame of the Transnational Access to Major Research Infrastructures action (see the chapter User Projects). Since 2004 the laboratory participates at an Integrated Infrastructure Initiative project of the Laserlab-Europe Consortium (7th FP).
Since July 2000 the PALS Research Centre has been a part of a broader unit, the Laser Plasma Research Centre, supported from the Research Centres Programme of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of CR (programme LN, 2000-2004).
In May 2005 its successor – the Laser Plasma Centre – has been established in the frame of a similar domestic programme for the years 2005-2009. This project has been subsequently prolonged till the end of the year 2011.