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U.S. Laboratory Breaks Laser Record, Delivering 500-Trillion-Watt Beam

The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber. i i

hide captionThe preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber.

National Ignition Facility
The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber.

The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber.

National Ignition Facility

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has produced a record-breaking laser beam at its National Ignition Facility. The lab's system of 192 beams produced more than 500 trillion watts and 1.85 megajoules of laser light onto a 2-millimeter in diameter target.

And we know, those numbers sound like gibberish. But the laboratory puts it in every-day terms:

"Five hundred terawatts is 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time, and 1.85 megajoules of energy is about 100 times what any other laser regularly produces today."

The NIF fired the lasers on July 5 and they made the announcement last week, but the news is just now bubbling up.

The goal of the facility is to one day produce more energy than what is supplied to the target through nuclear fusion.

"NIF is becoming everything scientists planned when it was conceived over two decades ago," NIF Director Edward Moses said in a statement. "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."

Update at 1:31 p.m. ET. A Little More Explanation:

The point of an experiment like this is to produce extreme conditions common in universe. NIF says:

"These conditions are similar to those in the stars and the cores of giant planets or in nuclear weapons; thus one of the NIF & Photon Science Directorate's missions is to provide a better understanding of the complex physics of nuclear weapons (see National Security). Researchers can also explore basic science, such as astrophysical phenomena, materials science, and nuclear science (see Understanding the Universe). NIF's other major mission is to provide scientists with the physics understanding necessary to create fusion ignition and energy gain for future energy production (see Energy for the Future)."

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