The real-life DEATH STAR: US researchers developing laser 100,000 times more powerful than all of Ea
by Mark Prigg
It will be the most powerful laser ever created, and could give researchers incredible new insights into how the cosmos was created. Called the High-Repetition-Rate Advanced Petawatt Laser System (HAPLS), it will emit 100,000 times more power than all the power stations in the world - for a tiny fraction of a second. It has even been nicknamed the Death Star laser for its similarity to Darth Vader's laser wielding base in Star Wars.
The Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) Beamlines project is an EU-funded lab being developed with experts from around the world, including Lawrence Livermore lab in the US, and being built in the Czech Republic. Due to be switched on by 2017, it will emit a short laser burst with an intensity of 1023 watts per square centimeter. 'ELI will become the first international laser research facility, much like a ‘CERN for laser research’, hosting some of the world’s most powerful lasers enabling a new era of unique research opportunities for users from all countries,' said Professor Wolfgang Sandner, director general of the ELI-Delivery Consortium International Association (AIBSL).
The system combines technologies from across Europe and around the world.
It relies on a scheme referred to as 'double-chirped pulse amplification,' enabling high signal to noise in the output pulses which will seed HAPLS. 'HAPLS’s high repetition rate will make possible new scientific discoveries,' said Livermore physicist and HAPLS project manager Constantin Haefner. 'While scientists have long performed experiments with powerful single-shot lasers, they have never had an opportunity to repeat experiments at 10 times per second.' HAPLS will deliver ultrashort, high-energy laser pulses for generating secondary sources of electromagnetic radiation (such as high-brightness x rays) and accelerating charged particles (electrons, protons, or ions). The laser technology will enable many applications in physics, medicine, biology, and materials science. HAPLS will consist of two interconnected Livermore-designed laser systems that, when set up at ELI Beamlines, will require a combined space of about 4.6 by 17 meters, plus 4 square meters for the final laser pulse compressor. The first system—a diode-pumped, solid-state laser—will energize or 'pump' the second system—a chirped-pulse-amplification, short-pulse laser.