Physicists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the National Ignition Facility have utterly decimated a previous record for the most powerful laser shot ever.
Yes, the previous record melted under the overwhelming brute force of a laser shot comprising 192 separate beams aimed at a 2 mm diameter target. Together, the beams delivered a staggering 500 trillion watts of power, or 1.85 megajoules.
I admit, it's probably quite difficult for most of us to wrap our brains around the true meaning of 500 trillion watts. Indeed, electricity demands in Britain during 2006 were 12,500 times less than the 500 trillion watts generated by the record-setting laser.
"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.
"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 researchers at the National Ignition Facility, which is one of the foremost laser research establishments in the world, commonly produce lasers capable of more than 100 times the energy of other lasers around the world. The goal of researchers working at the facility is to create a laser that can ignite hydrogen fusion.
"NIF is becoming everything scientists planned when it was conceived over two decades ago," explained NIF director Edward Moses. "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."