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World's most powerful laser fired in Japan
by Brooks Hays
Osaka, Japan (UPI) Jul 29, 2015


disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Scientists at Osaka University in Japan say they've fired the world's most powerful laser. The beam was intact for just one picosecond, a trillionth of a second, but brief pulse registered two quadrillion watts of power, or two petawatts.

The energy that was concentrated into the single beam is the equivalent of the world's electricity consumption -- times 1,000. That's double the power of the United States' most powerful laser, a one-petawatt laser at the University of Texas at Austin.

All that power generated in Japan required very little energy input. To create the laser beam, researchers needed only a few hundred Joules -- about the power required to run a few light bulbs or a microwave. Of course, the laser would require a lot more power if it were to run for more than a trillionth of a second.

But lasers don't require much energy for their short powerful bursts. Instead, the laser derives its power from the series of magnifying lenses through which a beam of light is concentrated over a distance of 300 feet.

The complex series of amplifying glass lenses that make up Osaka's Laser for Fast Ignition Experiments, or LFEX, is the most powerful yet designed. It took the researchers at the university's Institute of Laser Engineering several months of testing to finally set the record.

But predictably, the scientists aren't preparing to rest on their laurels.

"With heated competition in the world to improve the performance of lasers, our goal now is to increase our output to 10 petawatts," researcher Junji Kawanaka said in a press release.

So what use will all that power serve, aside from setting records?

As Julio Soares, research scientist at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, jokingly told Popular Science: "Well, blow things up."


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