500 Trillion Watt Laser Breaks Records

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500 Trillion Watt Laser Breaks Records

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Good news for fusion power is bad news for Alderaan.

Whether attached to sharks or propelling interstellar spacecraft, lasers are proving exceptionally useful in our technological age. After years of development, a team at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California has now pushed lasers further than they've ever gone before by unleashing a pointed blast from their gigantic laser that delivered over 500 trillion (500 terawatts) of power, 100 times more than any other laser tested to date.

By firing 192 small lasers simultaneously, the NIF team was able to cram the 500 terawatts into one Death Star-esque beam. For reference, 500 terawatts is about 1000 times as much power as the entire United States is using at any given moment.

In good news for fans of fusion power studies, the extreme levels of energy in the beam also meant that it, for a split second, created conditions not dissimilar from those we find in the hearts of burning stars.

"The 500 terawatt shot is an extraordinary accomplishment by the NIF team, creating unprecedented conditions in the laboratory that hitherto only existed deep in stellar interiors," commented Richard Petrasso, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Edward Moses, director of the NIF, is predictably pleased with the result of the test. "NIF is becoming everything scientists planned when it was conceived over two decades ago," he said. "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."

The next step for the NIF and its laser will be to further test its possible applications in the field of fusion energy research. When fired, the laser was focussed on a pea-sized capsule; were that capsule loaded with the right kind of materials, a blast from the laser could kick off a fusion process by means of something called inertial confinement fusion (where the laser's power would make the capsule's surface explode outward, sending energy inward with enough force to compress the capsule's innards into a fusion reaction). If the NIF pulls that off, expect to hear about it in a big, big way. If not, well, the lab has the world's most powerful laser. Either way, let's be cool to them, yeah?

Source: Innovation Daily/Huffington Post

Image: National Ignition Facility

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The combined power of the 192 lasers is 500 terawatts.

A watt is a unit of power not a unit of energy. Power is the rate at which energy is used.

korandder:
The combined power of the 192 lasers is 500 terawatts.

A watt is a unit of power not a unit of energy. Power is the rate at which energy is used.

Ah, sorry. Updated. Cheers :)

so....what happens when you point that thing at a living thing?

draythefingerless:
so....what happens when you point that thing at a living thing?

You get to experiance the joy of becoming a fusion reaction?

=O
This is so sciency! PROGRESS! HUZZAH!

slyywiskers:

draythefingerless:
so....what happens when you point that thing at a living thing?

You get to experiance the joy of becoming a fusion reaction?

sounds...cathartic.

I looked at the design of this particular installation some years ago. The issue they were having was getting the lasers, through the arrays, all on the objective within a reasonable tolerance with respect to time. It's interesting to see that they finally got a hit after this many years. The trouble with the base design of the installation is that I couldn't discern "how" they planned to actually harness the heat that would be generated in the reaction.

Ultimately I concluded, as a provisional hypothesis, that the goal was not the creation of a power plant... but the development of a munition. Weee... go science...

edit... little info to support meh' claim...

Despite the many millions of dollars spent by the U.S. between 1952 and 1992 to produce a pure fusion weapon, no measurable success was ever achieved. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a restricted data declassification decision stating that even if the DOE made a substantial investment in the past to develop a pure fusion weapon, "the U.S. Is not known to have and is not developing a pure fusion weapon and no credible design for a pure fusion weapon resulted from the DOE investment". The power densities needed to ignite a fusion reaction still seem attainable only with the aid of a fission explosion, or with large apparatus such as powerful lasers like those at the National Ignition Facility, the Sandia Z-pinch machine, or various magnetic tokamaks. Regardless of any claimed advantages of pure fusion weapons, building those weapons does not appear to be feasible using currently available technologies and many have expressed concern that pure fusion weapons research and development would subvert the intent of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Hmm, I wonder what would happen if we fired it into the sun?

I would lot like to piss off the people in control of this lest I be put in the place of the small capsule during their next firing! It'd probably burn a hole straight through my chest like a lightsaber would... Maybe they should do a test on a crash test dummy or 'human analogue' just to see what would happen if you crossed the stream...

I would hate to have to be the guy who has to look after the capacitor bank needed to store that huge amount of energy for the lasers to fire. There is no way that you can draw 500 terawatts from a wall outlet!

I wonder if you could make that portable and attach it to the Hubble telescope...

now to steal it and hold the world at ransom......

Evil Smurf:
now to steal it and hold the world at ransom......

We shall call it the Alan Parsons Project... *Evil Pinky*

amaranth_dru:

Evil Smurf:
now to steal it and hold the world at ransom......

We shall call it the Alan Parsons Project... *Evil Pinky*

Wooo! This makes me the brain :D

no no clearly we need sharks to attach these to.

cool science stuff today. really looking forward to the results of the fusion tests. well unless they blow up he universe with them.

Quaxar:
I wonder if you could make that portable and attach it to the Hubble telescope...

Planetary Defense 101

OT: Fuck yeah fill the chamber with hydrogen and lets get some fusion going on.

Inertial confinement fusion, not "interial".

Im sorry i only got as far as Deathstar and stopped reading to ponder the practical applications of this. And as if this isnt enough we have a nice pointy shiney new skyscraper in London thats just begging to be converted into a doom-lair. Its like all my christmases (Christmi?) have come at once! *Manical laughter*

Glad to see I'm not the only one this super Lazer has beaming

TopazFusion:
Cool. When will the pocket laserpointer version be available?

Oh Hey Daystar, so I see you finally cut out the middle man/dog

...Oh wait.

CardinalPiggles:
Hmm, I wonder what would happen if we fired it into the sun?

Probably nothing at all. The sun already has a self-sustaining fusion reaction going on. One that is astronomically more energetic than the mosquito bite NIF's laser can deliver to it.

On another note, National Ignition Facility is a badass name. Sounds like they spend their entire time igniting stuff with lasers for the lulz. Oh wait, that is what they do.

Anyone else chuckle when they said it was "fully operational"?

Wonder if this is the weapon we could use to protect the planet from asteroids. Also anyone know if a video of the laser firing exists?

EDIT: Lead scientist: I"M CHARGIN MY LAZER

While it's really cool, I can't quite look past the minor problem in creating a star fusion reaction in the midst of your complex and expensive equipment. Hopefully they have some mechanical octopus arms.

Oh dear lord. And I thought my energy bill was high.

Xan Krieger:
Wonder if this is the weapon we could use to protect the planet from asteroids. Also anyone know if a video of the laser firing exists?

EDIT: Lead scientist: I"M CHARGIN MY LAZER

*hits fire button* BWAAAAAAH!
I don't think there's any video of it firing, but here's a video about the facility itself:

crepesack :
Anyone else chuckle when they said it was "fully operational"?

If the "scientist" saying this was not wearing a dark cloak while saying "fully operational" I will be very disappointed...

Fantastic news. Now when do I get my death ray?

draythefingerless:
so....what happens when you point that thing at a living thing?

either something really nasty or this

Personally I think the laser needs more PewPew

draythefingerless:
so....what happens when you point that thing at a living thing?

You know that bit from Prince of Space where the bad guy's ray gun destroys people, leaving only their hats behind?

OT: This is very cool. Now, if I might just borrow that for a little while... I just need to attach it to the LHC to finish my Dimension Gun. A-Class Criminal Kain got loose again and he's not easy to handle alone.

CardinalPiggles:
Hmm, I wonder what would happen if we fired it into the sun?

Kaplooey?
I'm gonna go with Kaplooey.

Also, I would be very disappointed if the first guy who fired the laser didn't say "DOCTOR OCTAGONAPUS BLAAAAAAARG!"

Since my friend works on the Higgs Boson and has a non-insignificant chance of tearing a hole in the fabric of space-time, I find giant death lasers a lot less scary than I used to.

CardinalPiggles:
Hmm, I wonder what would happen if we fired it into the sun?

Nothing.

Shine a laser pointer at the moon, and it will have spread out over that range to a spot size of about 500 square kilometers. And besides, this many photons is nothing to the sun. Sun wouldn't notice one iota. What is of note here is that they got all the lasers focused to a single target at nearly the same instant in time, and all that energy has to go somewhere- into fusion reactions.

Well, if the beams lasted a second, it would release 500 TJ of energy, or about the equivalent energy of 120,000 tons of TNT (roughly). That would have taken a nice big chunk out of California. Instead, the beams last a small fraction of a second. At a millionth of a second, it's about 240 lbs TNT equivalent energy. At a nanosecond, about 1/4 lb TNT equivalent. The nanosecond beams would kill a human being, and the microsecond beams would Jackson Pollack everything for several dozen meters. If the beams lasted a picosecond, on the other hand, it might be survivable by a human being (probably blinding, but survivable).

The power alone isn't enough to tell, you also need the duration. I'd bet on something like a nanosecond.

crepesack :
Anyone else chuckle when they said it was "fully operational"?

Yes.

Hevva:
their gigantic laser that delivered over 500 trillion (500 terawatts) of power, 100 times more than any other laser tested to date.

Where do you get these figures from?

- The second sentence in the article says 60 times more than any previous laser system. Not 100.

- Nowhere in the article do they mention 500 terawatts. Or 500 of anything. Not even the word "watts" appears anywhere in the article.

Are you making this stuff up as you go?

edit: I see that you took these from the article at the Huffington Post... so maybe they are making stuff up as they go.

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