Boffins fire up world's most powerful laser

Boffins fire up world's most powerful laser

Petawatt laser activated in Texas

The Texas Petawatt laser has become the highest powered laser in the world, after delivering more than one petawatt (one quadrillion watts) of laser power.

Todd Ditmire, a physicist at The University of Texas at Austin, explained that when the laser is turned on, it has the power output of more than 2,000 times the output of all the power plants in the United States. The laser is brighter than sunlight on the surface of the sun, but it only lasts for an instant, a tenth of a trillionth of a second (0.0000000000001 second).

Ditmire and his colleagues at the Texas Center for High-Intensity Laser Science will use the laser to create and study matter at some of the most extreme conditions in the universe, including gases at temperatures greater than those in the sun and solids at pressures of many billions of atmospheres.

This will allow them to explore many astronomical phenomena in miniature. " We can learn about these large astronomical objects from tiny reactions in the lab because of the similarity of the mathematical equations that describe the events," said Ditmire, director of the centre.

Such a powerful laser will also allow the researchers to study advanced ideas for creating energy by controlled fusion.