UM seeks to use powerful laser to improve health care, probe the universe

The first experiments using the University of Michigan’s new ZEUS laser started this past week in Ann Arbor with scientists exploring how the highest peak power laser in America — one of the most powerful laser systems in the world — could be used to produce better quality images of the body’s internal tissues, bones and organs while exposing patients to less radiation than traditional X-rays.

New medical technologies are among untold advancements expected from ZEUS, the Zetawatt-Equivalent Ultrashort pulse laser System, which University of Michigan scientists have been building since 2019. The roughly $20 million system is funded primarily by the National Science Foundation with additional support from the University of Michigan and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

ZEUS will be made available to research teams across the country for projects to explore the physics of the quantum universe and outer space, or to develop new technologies in medicine, electronics or national security.

The effective electric field of the laser is so strong that scientists are aiming to create matter and anti-matter, replicating at a small scale some of the most energetic processes of the universe, said Louise Willingale, associate director of the ZEUS system.

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