Scientists Just Fired The World's Biggest Laser

Lawrence Livermore laser amplifierThe preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber. NIF recently achieved a 500 terawatt shot – 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time.

Photo: Damien Jemison/LLNL

Lawrence Livermore National Labs made shocking history July 5: They fired off a 192-beam laser that’s the most energetic ever created. The laser delivered more than 500 trillion watts of power and 1.85 megajoules of ultraviolet laser light to the target.”For scientists across the nation and the world who, like ourselves, are actively pursuing fundamental science under extreme conditions and the goal of laboratory fusion ignition, this is a remarkable and exciting achievement,” said Richard Petrasso, senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a statement from the facility.

The 192 lasers that made up the beam had to fire in unison: Within a few trillionths of a second of each other. They were aired at a 2 millimetre (0.08 inches) wide target.

Laser targetA view of a cryogenically cooled laser target as

Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Labs

They are known for their powerful lasers — which often outpower every other laser on Earth by about 100 times. These powerful lasers are a big milestone in the researcher’s goal of igniting hydrogen fusion, the statement said. These highly energetic lasers are used to ignite hydrogen fuel in the lab to produce even more energy than the lasers require to run.The lasers also recreate “The 500 TW shot is an extraordinary accomplishment by the NIF Team, creating unprecedented conditions in the laboratory that hitherto only existed deep in stellar interiors,” Petrasso said.

“It is remarkable that NIF has achieved the 500 TW milestone — quite a significant achievement,” Raymond Jeanloz, of the University of California, Berkeley, said in the statement form Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “This breakthrough will give us incredible new opportunities in studying materials at extreme conditions.”

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