The $2M laboratory in the sub-basement of the original National Research Council building in Ottawa was specially designed to house a state of the art laser system. The equipment is so sensitive that the laser is placed on top of 60 cm thick honeycomb tables that are floating on a cushion of air. The concrete floor slab has been separated from the rest of the building to remove vibrations of people walking nearby. Special air handling units maintain the temperature, humidity and pressure in the laser room during all of Ottawa's seasons.
The laser system produces 80 million pulses of light every second. Each laser pulse is so precisely controlled that it is accurate to 1 part in a trillion. It uses the same technology that is now used in the latest and most accurate atomic time clocks provided by a few countries around the world.
The laser is so intense that it rips the electrons off all atoms and molecules that it encounters. The femtosecond-duration laser pulses are converted to attosecond duration when the laser beam is focused into a gas cell. The attosecond beam must be transported in vacuum to avoid ionizing the air.