World-largest petawatt laser delivers 2,000 trillion watts output
Recently, the Laser for Fast Ignition Experiments (LFEX) was boosted to produce a powerful laser beam which had a peak power of 2,000 trillion Watts (two petawatts) for an exceptionally shorter duration which is approximately a trillionth of a second (one picosecond).
It was at the Osaka University in Japan where this world’s most powerful LFEX laser beam was fired.
According to scientists, the LFEX laser is billion times more powerful than a typical floodlight which is used at stadium. The power of this LFEX beam is equivalent to the overall power of the solar energy which falls on London. Now, we can imagine how powerful the energy of this beam would be if it is focused onto a much thinner surface which is just the size of a human hair in width and the duration is just trillionth of a second. So in other words, this LFEX laser has enormous power and brightness.
Besides, LFEX, the other ultra high power lasers which have been built across the world are the gigantic 192-beam National Ignition Facility in California, CoReLS laser in South Korea, Vulcan laser at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory outside Oxford, UK, to name a few.
Other projects which are in their design stages includes the most awaited Extreme Light Infrastructure, which is an international collaboration located in Eastern Europe that aims to build a laser which would be 10 times more powerful that the LFEX laser.
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What is the purpose of building these ultra high power lasers?
To build such powerful optical and electronic technology is definitely not an easy task. Then what is it that drives scientists all over the world to build them. Besides, these projects are too expensive, hence what is it that convinces the politicians to support these enormous projects by granting significant research funds?
Well, the very first thing could be the “wow” factor which is associated with these powerful lasers. But do you think that so much persistent efforts are put for the sake of excitement and imagination of scientists and their supporters? Definitely no!
Then what is the purpose of building these ultra high power lasers?
Recreate a tiny replica of early Universe along with its extreme matter and objects:
Now, according to scientists, these ‘ultra high power lasers’ are the only means through which humans can recreate the extreme environment that is found in space, such as the atmosphere of Sun and stars, or say the atmosphere that is present in the core of giant planets such as Jupiter.
When an ordinary matter is fired with ultra high power lasers, the matter gets vaporized instantaneously resulting in the formation of extremely hot and dense ionized gas. Scientists have termed this extreme state of matter “plasma” and it is extremely rare to find this state of matter on Earth. However, scientists believe that almost 99 percent of ordinary matter in the Universe is in plasma state.
Thus we can now make out that scientists are trying to create a replica of Universe in their laboratories with all its objects and matter in their extreme states so that they can study the Universe in a controlled manner; it is for this reason that they are building the ultra high power lasers.
In other words, with the help of these ultra high power lasers, scientists are attempting to move back in time and recreate the atmosphere which is similar to that which could have been in the early Universe just moments after the Big Bang.
It is with the help of these ultra-powerful lasers that scientists have been able to unveil the secrets of evolution of our Universe and its present state.
LFEX laser is useful for studying nuclear fusion and nuclear fission research work:
It is also important to note that the laser facilities have a great contribution in theoretical research as well as they form the base of crucial practical applications. For instance, currently scientists use the laser facilities for their research into alternative and clean energy generation or healthcare.
LFEX finds its application in the field of clean energy generation research because it has been built specifically to study the nuclear fusion research.
In case of nuclear fusion, there is no generation of radioactive waste and hence here the fusion fuels are much easily stored and handled. Besides, the nuclear fusion works by using sea water and lithium, which is pretty easy to handle in comparison to the uranium which is used in nuclear fission.
On the contrary, nuclear fission, creates and sustains massive energy of stars; however it requires a very high input of power to initiate the chain reaction. It is here that the LFEX lasers can be used to generate that amount of power.
Last year, a preliminary test was conducted at U.S. National Ignition Facility, on one occasion it even managed to generate more energy than what it used up for the ignition. Thus the results were quite encouraging.
Best alternative to the expensive particle accelerators:
Another aspect as to why these ultra powerful lasers are appealing is because they can prove to be the best alternative to the huge particle accelerators with the only difference being these lasers are pretty compact and inexpensive as compared to the particle accelerators which are too expensive and also too large such as the CERN which measures many kilometers in length.
The huge particle accelerators are high powered and laser driven which generates ultra high quality x-rays without using radioisotope particles. These x-rays finds its application in the biological researches wherein they can take high resolution of biological tissues in a compact and inexpensive system, for instance using these x-rays for tomography of an insect.
For therapeutic use such as cancer therapy:
Besides, the laser driven ion beams are also being used by researchers for treating cancer; however the cost and ultra huge size of the conventional accelerators has blocked this therapy from reaching to a wider group of people.
Now, with this ultra high power lasers, the laser baser cancer therapy would be much affordable and it can reach to more hospitals thus resulting in effectively providing the cancer therapy treatment to large number of cancer patients.
It is very much clear from all this explanation, that though LFEX was able to deliver the most powerful laser beam for a very brief moment, it definitely has provided a ray of hope for all the different disciplines where it finds its applications such as creating the abstract world of early Universe, to help in the nuclear research work, to be used as best alternative to the expensive particle accelerators and in health care industry for diagnosis of cancer and use it for cancer therapies.
So, now we can understand why the entire research community along with the politicians are working so hard to build such high power laser beams and also spending a lot of money in these enormous projects.