This focus on research and innovation is a reason Romania was chosen to host the groundbreaking Extreme Light Infrastructure-Nuclear Physics (ELI-NP) project, which will involve the most powerful laser beams in the world. It will be built in Magurele south of Bucharest next to the Horia Hulubei National Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering. The project coordinator for the Romanian site, Nicolae-Victor Zamfir, says that each laser in the project will be 10 times more powerful than any laser currently in existence.
The Romanian facility, focussing on nuclear physics, will be one of three Extreme Light Infrastructure facilities to be built through the EU’s ELI initiative. The others will be in Prague, Czech Republic, where the focus of research will be high-energy-beam science, and Szeged, Hungary, where the focus will be attosecond-laser science.
New fields of physics research
Romania’s ELI-NP will be a very complex facility which will include not only very high intensity lasers but also a new European research facility dedicated to new fields of physics, including cutting-edge research on ultra-high-intensity lasers, laser-matter interaction and other areas. Because of its unique properties, this multidisciplinary facility will provide outstanding new opportunities to study the fundamental processes involved in light-matter interaction. The research carried out in Magurele will have applications in many fields, including medicine (particularly imaging and cancer treatments), pharmaceuticals, nuclear materials, management of radioactive waste, electronics, software development, optics and others.
The ELI-NP project is also designed to promote technology transfer throughout Europe, both to small and medium-sized enterprises and to large firms. Another top priority on the ELI agenda is to train scientists and engineers in the numerous disciplines associated with Extreme Light.
A “laser valley” in Romania
Romania’s Prime Minister Victor Ponta has announced that he would like the ELI-NP project to be the cornerstone of a “laser valley” in Romania comparable to Silicon Valley in California. He says, “Many foreign researchers will come to Magurele and work on this absolutely special project, together with Romanians, and this will be a flagship project for Romania, Europe and the world. This is a great step forward for Romania. This will be the EU’s biggest research project to date, with some €260 million of the budget coming from EU structural funds. With ELI-NP, Romania demonstrates that it is capable of hosting one of the top research projects on the globe.”
ELI-NP is expected to be operational by 2015, and by 2018 it is expected to be employing 262 researchers and support staff. The total cost of the project is estimated at more than €356 million, with most of the funding coming from the EU.
EECIAR: unique scanners and much more
Another cutting-edge research centre in Romania is the East European Centre for Integrated Applied Research (EECIAR), which is working with its sister enterprise MB Telecom. MB Telecom created Roboscan, a unique, fully automated scanner for trucks and containers, and Roboscan Aeria, a unique solution for aircraft scanning. Both have won prestigious international prizes in Geneva for innovation and have significant applications in security and other fields.
Mircea Tudor, President and owner of MB Telecom, founded EECIAR to build on MB Telecom’s success. He says, “EECIAR is a fully private research entity that operates with MB Telecom and through which we are able to enlarge our research spectrum by approaching other interdisciplinary large-scale projects, mainly but not only in border-security technologies.”
Building on Romanian human resources
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Victor Ponta launched the construction of another major research centre, the Advanced Research for Materials, Products and Innovative Processes Institute (to be known as CAMPUS UPB), located on the campus of the Polytechnic University of Bucharest. At the inauguration, the Prime Minister commented, “This project, which is supported by EU funding, is a very clear message to all that research is a priority in Romania. The future of Romanian research is closely linked to universities, and this centre will benefit from UPB’s excellence in engineering research.” The new facility will contain 41 laboratories as well as conference space and offices.
Romania is clearly committed to supporting innovative research projects. As EECIAR founder Mircea Tudor puts it, “There is no resource in the world more valuable than human intelligence, and we can generate top solutions and know-how for global problems here in Romania, based on this endless resource.”