Laser physicists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have broken the record for the highest-power laser shot with a collection of beams delivering more than 500 trillion watts of peak power.
The National Ignition Facility fired 192 beams at the same time, delivering 1.85 megajoules of ultraviolet laser light to a target a mere two millimeters in diameter.
To put those numbers into perspective, the 500 terawatt figure is 12,500 times greater than the demand for electricity in 2006 in Britain, which averaged out at 40 gigawatts.
“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 and division head of high energy density physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a press release. “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,”
The National Ignition Facility is the world’s foremost laser research establishment, producing lasers than can regularly carry more than 100 times the energy of any other laser. The 500 terawatt firing hits a milestone set in the late 90s when the facility was being planned, and takes researchers a step closer to the goal of igniting hydrogen fusion.
“NIF is becoming everything scientists planned when it was conceived over two decades ago,” NIF director Edward Moses said in the release. “It is fully operational, and scientists are taking important steps toward achieving ignition and providing experimental access to user communities for national security, basic science and the quest for clean fusion energy.”