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Japanese researchers test fire a 2 quadrillion watt laser

by Mark Tyson on 30 July 2015, 12:06

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The world's most powerful laser has been created and tested by a team of researchers and engineers at Japan's Osaka University. According to the Japanese scientists, the Laser for Fast Ignition Experiments [LFEX] is twice as powerful and carries 100x more energy than a rival device at the University of Texas.

LFEX was test fired and emitted a laser pulse with 2 quadrillion watts of power (equal to 2 petawatts), according to the Asahi Shimbun. The LFEX is about 100 metres long and uses a set of four parametric amplifying add-on lenses to create the concentrated pulse of laser energy.

While its output seems almost ridiculously high - it reportedly emitted "concentrated energy equivalent to 1,000 times the world's electricity consumption" - the laser pulse was also extremely brief at one-trillionth of a second (equal to 1 picosecond). So overall the team didn't use that much energy to conduct the test firing. The modest amount of input energy was said to be only "enough to run a microwave for about two seconds".

The current results from the laser firing might seem to be impressive but the researchers plan to ramp up the output of the LFEX by a multiple of five – to about 10 quadrillion watts.

But what will such a device be used for? Phys.org reports that such lasers are mostly just made for scientific interest. If the scientists wished to sustain their current power level laser beam for long enough to be of military use over distances, like in a 'Death Star', it would require "more energy to run continuously, than is currently produced by the whole world". However previous military experiments have seen drones shot down, from nearly 2Km away, using continuous 50 kilowatt laser systems.

HEXUS Forums :: 11 Comments

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The most important (but missing in this article) numbers, direct from the first line of the paper abstract: “2 kJ in a 1.5 ps pulse”
Re: continuous use question.

I have no real background in this stuff but am just curious - what do they use for lenses and would this not limit continuous use anyway? Even if only a tiny fraction of the transmitted energy were absorbed, surely it wouldn't have to run for long before any lenses or mirrors involved melted and ceased to function properly.
It's like a camera lens though isn't it? I mean the lens etc. are fine as the laser is NOT focused on it
The hint for what it's probably for is in the name, “Laser for Fast Ignition Experiments” likely something to do with either, laser initiated Fusion, or as an overscale system for prototyping a replacement for sparkplugs. Both options are things I'm aware are being worked on in Japan, so there's every chance this is to do with one of 'em.
Similar to the USA national ignition facility.

I think it's more interesting for scientists investigating very very high-temperature/pressure, e.g. processes in nuclear explosions (both bombs and stars).

Practical civilian use seems much more far off. There was some crazy idea that this could be used to generate power through nuclear fusion, though I've no idea how they'd extract power and quickly repeat the pulse/blast. #deathstar ?