A group of Romanian researchers successfully performed the first test of a very powerful laser built in the context of a European project called Extreme Light Infrastructure based in a laboratory in the town of Măgurele, Romania. It is the most powerful laser ever built that develops the highest artificially concentrated power on the planet.
The laser can exploit up to 10 petawatts, or 10 million billion watts, which is quite a step ahead of the lasers that were developed only 10 years ago. The latter exploited the power of “only” one petawatt and were jokingly called “Death Star” (the Death Star that in Star Wars movies can, with a single laser beam, destroy entire planets).
The project started in the early 2000s, when the first funding from the European Commission arrived. The three countries chosen for the infrastructure used to deconstruct this new laser were Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
The project, however, was not born to develop a new weapon but rather to advance all the scientific technological infrastructures that currently use lasers to operate (although the step from a scientific to a military context is usually very short).
The possible uses of such a power in the form of lasers? First of all, it is possible to perform simulations of events related to space explosions, primarily supernovae. In this sense, studies can be carried out, for example, on how heavy metals are formed.
As far as more practical uses are concerned, this new super laser could be used in medical research focusing on cancer therapies or new methods to manage radioactive waste. Not to mention all the engineering related to particle accelerators.
Researchers believe, in any case, that thanks to the unique features of this new infrastructure, a new era of laser-based research can be opened up, which will attract the world’s best researchers in the field.
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