Japanese researchers claim they have fired the world's most powerful laser. Researchers at Osaka University said the 2-petawatt pulse lasted just one picosecond, or a trillionth of a second, Popular Science reported.
Osaka's mega-powerful laser measures more than 300 feet long and is known as the LFEX, or Laser for Fast Ignition Experiments. In comparison, the United States boasts a one-petawatt laser at the University of Texas at Austin. The scientists at Osaka University said their pulse is about 100 times the energy of UT Austin’s laser. It also has twice the power power.
Such a powerful laser could become a formidable weapon and observers have already compared Japan's laser to the Death Star laser from the "Stars Wars" movie franchise. For context, a 50,000 watt laser successfully wiped out a drone just a mile away last year. That laser was 10 billion times less powerful that the one used in Japan, the Daily Mail reported.
Lasers are basically just powerful lights with extremely concentrated power. A series of pulses can destroy hard materials like titanium or diamond, Scientific American has reported.
“Two petawatts, that’s a lot,” said Julio Soares, senior research scientist at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
— Popular Science (@PopSci) July 28, 2015
The energy required for the laser beam is equivalent to that needed to power a microwave for two seconds. But don't be too impressed. The laser could be better, Japan claimed. “With heated competition in the world to improve the performance of lasers, our goal now is to increase our output to 10 petawatts,” Junji Kawanaka, one of the researchers, explained in a press release, Gizmodo reported.
The good news? The laser was developed to advance scientific interest rather than having any real-world purpose, Osaka claims.