US laboratory produces record 500-trillion-watt laser beam

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US laboratory produces record 500-trillion-watt laser beam

Photo: National Ignition Facility

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has produced a record laser beam of more than 500 trillion watts and 1.85 megajoules onto a 2-millimeter in diameter target at its National Ignition Facility (NIF).

To put it lucidly, “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 laboratory explains.

In Britain perspective, the 500 terawatt figure is 12,500 times greater than the demand for electricity in 2006.

The NIF fired 192 beams at the same time, delivering 1.85 megajoules of ultraviolet laser light to a target a mere two millimetres in diameter.

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

“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.”

According to, Richard Petrasso, senior research scientist and division head of high energy density physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said in a press release: “For scientists across the nation and the world who, like ourselves, are actively pursuing fundamental science under extreme conditions and the goal of laboratory fusion ignition, this is a remarkable and exciting achievement.
“The 500 TW shot is an extraordinary accomplishment by the NIF Team, creating unprecedented conditions in the laboratory that hitherto only existed deep in stellar interiors.”

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