Japanese researchers have just fired the most powerful laser ever fired on Earth, producing a 2 petawatt pulse – 2 quadrillion watts. Located at the Osaka University, the Laser for Fast Ignition Experiment (LFEX) has a concentrated energy equivalent of 1,000 times the world’s electricity consumption. However, it could only be sustained for a trillionth of a second.
The LFEX laser projector is about 100 metres long and features four glass lamps that amplify the laser beam over and over as it passes through the projector – this allows scientists to obtain huge amounts of energy while investing only a couple hundred joules of energy – what your microwave uses in 2 seconds.
But they’re not stopping here – the laser business is a fierce one, and the competition is tough.
“With heated competition in the world to improve the performance of lasers, our goal now is to increase our output to 10 petawatts,” one of the team Junji Kawanaka, an electrical engineer at Osaka University, said in a statement.
Thankfully though, the laser won’t be built for military purposes, but for science.
“If one wanted to destroy a satellite, the Japanese LFEX laser would not be the answer, as it would not propagate far through the atmosphere – even if it could be pointed towards the satellite,” Michael Donovan, the associate director of Texas Petawatt Laser program in the US, told Patrick Tucker at Defence One. “The higher you get, the thinner the atmosphere. So a laser launched in space could propagate, but a petawatt laser is too large to economically launch into space.”