Laser Blasts 2 Megajoule Beam 1,000 Times Stronger Than All U.S. Power Plants Combined

Laser Blasts 2 Megajoule Beam 1,000 Times Stronger Than All U.S. Power Plants Combined

You might already know a little bit about what the National Ignition Facility has been up to lately, or what they could possibly achieve. But last week, even the scientists at the Livermore, California station couldn't predict the awesome power that their humongous laser was capable of. NIF's laser is already the record holder for the world's largest laser, and now it can also claim to be the first ever 2 megajoule ultraviolet laser after it generated nearly 100 times more energy than any other laser in operation today.

Control room staff monitoring the progress of the world's most energetic laser shot.

The record breaking 2.03 MJ burst of ultraviolet energy all started with a single laser. That laser was split into 48 separate laser beams. Those beams were then redirected using mirrors and shot into amplifiers. After bouncing around, that single beams quickly turned into 192 individual rays and were once again amplified. That tiny one billionth of a joule laser instantly became a 2.03 million joules monster for just a fraction of a second.

But still, in just 23 billionths of a second, it produced a pulse of energy that contained 411 trillion watts (TW) of peak power. That's 1,000 times stronger than all of the energy used at any instant time from U.S. power plants combined.

[1] Target Chamber. View from bottom showing the target positioner being inserted. [2] Each identical laser bay has two clusters of 48 beamlines. [3] A technician cleaning and applying an antireflective coating on the optics before being installed in the beampath. [4] The hohlraum cylinder, which contains the fusion fuel capsule. [5] A potassium dihydrogen phosphate (KDP) crystal, which was sliced into 600 small squares crystal plates that were needed for NIF. [6] A target contains a polished capsule about two millimeters in diameter, filled with cryogenic (super-cooled) hydrogen fuel.

They weren't shooting this laser at anything, but just imaging what would happen when they do actually get around to firing at a target, which is trying to achieve fusion ignition and energy gain in a lab setting.

Photos by NIF

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