Petawatt ‘Death Star’ laser prepares to investigate quantum mechanics, chemistry, and more


As high-power lasers have become increasingly important in scientific research, engineers have been working to build more powerful beam emitters. Now Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California is taking it to the extreme with a new laser project. If the High-Repetition-Rate Advanced Petawatt Laser System (HAPLS) lives up to its promise, it will be able to produce a laser with over 1 petawatt of power in extremely fast pulses. All the lasers that came before this one will tremble in fear of its awesome power. Yes, comparisons have been made to the Death Star.

The petawatt power level is the headlining feature — it’s the thing that makes everyone’s eyebrows perk up. However, the capacity of the system to produce incredibly short, quick bursts is just as important as having one quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) watts of total power. Luckily, HAPLS is going to be designed to operate at 10Hz, with each pulse lasting less than 30 femtoseconds. That works out to 0.03 trillionths of a second for each pulse.petawatai

Previous laser systems were able to pump out a similar amount of power with longer pulses, but the 10 pulses per second with HAPLS could output many times more power over the long haul, which in this case is still just fractions of a second. However, HAPLS will be able to run for hours at a time thanks to helium cooling.

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