Japanese scientists have developed and fired the world’s most powerful laser, capable of producing a whopping 2-petawatt (2 quadrillion watt) pulse, thanks to an integrated device called the Laser for Fast Ignition Experiment (LFEX). Though the beam can only be sustained for a trillionth of a second, it has the concentrated energy equivalent of 1,000x the world’s electricity consumption; I’ve definitely used that excuse myself before.
The LFEX laser projector, based at Osaka University, Japan, is around 100 metres long and constructed from a series of glass ‘lamps’, designed to amplify the beam as it travels the length of the device. The process allows the laser to concentrate the power of the laser while only using about 200 joules of energy, about equal to using a microwave oven for 2 seconds.
Junji Kawanaka, an electrical engineer at Osaka University and member of the LFEX team, is already looking to the future, saying, “With heated competition in the world to improve the performance of lasers, our goal now is to increase our output to 10 petawatts.”
Sadly, though, the laser will not see the advent of cool space battles. “If one wanted to destroy a satellite, the Japanese LFEX laser would not be the answer, as it would not propagate far through the atmosphere – even if it could be pointed towards the satellite,” Michael Donovan, Associate Director of Texas Petawatt Laser program, told Defence One. “The higher you get, the thinner the atmosphere. So a laser launched in space could propagate, but a petawatt laser is too large to economically launch into space.”
I wish I’d realised that before I invested in this shoal of sharks.
Thank you Science Alert for providing us with this information.
Image courtesy of NBC.