Scientists create record-breaking 10-petawatt laser that can vaporize matter

Cal Jeffrey

TS Evangelist
Staff member

Physicists in Romania have successfully tested a 10-petawatt (10 million billion watts) laser without burning a hole through the planet or themselves. To put the power of the laser into perspective, it is equal to one-tenth the energy produced by the sun on Earth.

That is more than enough energy to vaporize matter. In fact, in 2014, ExtremeTech described a 1PW laser as a “Death Star.” This laser is ten times stronger and is to-date the most powerful laser ever built.

The beam was developed with €850 million in funding from the European Commission through the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) project. The project includes facilities in Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The Romanian lab studies photonuclear physics. The Hungarian facility experiments with attosecond (1x10-18 second) laser light pulses. The group in the Czech Republic researches short-pulse secondary sources of radiation and particles.

The ELI project has plans for a fourth lab with a laser an order of magnitude stronger but has not picked a location for it yet.

The 10PW laser is probably not what most people would imagine. It resides inside a sealed chamber traveling through several vacuum tubes with focusing lenses. The researchers never even get to see it. Instead, they take readings from a computer.

Researchers can use the laser to study the effects of a supernova and how heavy metals are formed. As for practical applications, it may be helpful with proton cancer therapies. It may also prove useful in finding ways to deal with radioactive waste.

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Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
"It may also prove useful in finding ways to deal with radioactive waste."

It's a nice thought and while this temperature would be more than sufficient to destroy the waste the size necessary to make a meaningful impact would have to be on the scale of being able to destroy several drums at once. There is also the issue of containment of all vapors and gases created as well; but it's certainly well worth more study, particularly if a practical means can be found.
 

mbrowne5061

TS Evangelist
"It may also prove useful in finding ways to deal with radioactive waste."

It's a nice thought and while this temperature would be more than sufficient to destroy the waste the size necessary to make a meaningful impact would have to be on the scale of being able to destroy several drums at once. There is also the issue of containment of all vapors and gases created as well; but it's certainly well worth more study, particularly if a practical means can be found.
I don't think they mean 'destroy'. The bit about studying how heavy metals (heavier than iron, presumably) are formed, seems to suggest they hope/suspect they may find a way to 'split' waste products that would normally would remain stable. They seem to hope to shorten the half-life of heavy elements. If you could get it down to just a few years, or even decades, that would be a huge breakthrough (but we're very far off from such a goal)
 

wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
With that amount of power, it would be prudent to worry whether or not you still have your head. Causing blindness would be the least of one's worries.
I don't think they mean 'destroy'. The bit about studying how heavy metals (heavier than iron, presumably) are formed, seems to suggest they hope/suspect they may find a way to 'split' waste products that would normally would remain stable. They seem to hope to shorten the half-life of heavy elements. If you could get it down to just a few years, or even decades, that would be a huge breakthrough (but we're very far off from such a goal)
You might be surprised as to what that amount of power can do. I recall an article a few years back about a less powerful laser at, IIRC, Lawrence Livermore Labs. Basically, they took a shot at a target and all that was left was the constituent components of the object - that is, electrons, protons, and neutrons if not those, too, being broken down. Unfortunately, I cannot find a link to that article. Livermore disassembled that laser after that shot.
 
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wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
Matter is neither created nor destroyed but converted from one form to another.
So what form will radioactive waste take on?
It is a good question. Keep in mind that the transformation can go to energy according to modern physics through Einstein's E=mc^2.

As I said above, that amount of power literally breaks down matter to some of its smallest components and it may transform some of that matter into energy, too.
 
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Rahzin

TS Rookie
Imagine that energy bill. One zap and your bank account is emptied :|
Actually, consuming 1 petawatt (1x10^15 W) for 1 attosecond (1x10^-18 s) works out to the same amount of energy as consuming 0.001W over 1 second. So basically nothing. Your TV probably consumes more power than this when it is off (and in standby mode).

It is a HUGE burst of energy, but for such a ridiculously small amount of time that it actually is hardly any energy at all.
 

roberthi

TS Addict
"As for practical applications, it may be helpful with proton cancer therapies. It may also prove useful in finding ways to deal with radioactive waste."

So basically, it's a fancy toilet wand.
 

kmo911

TS Booster
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HmWDdmTAE8 was just the beginning of destroying the universe. so much power to one person. I would rule the whole galaxy. and later all galaxys whith my... nicely if this one can be used to shuffle away astoids that are to close to hit earth. so get death stars yp and goin . ignore the RU. no weapons shall be pulled to earth only out in space.