Friday, March 23, 2012

Most powerful laser pulse in history is fired in US nuclear fusion plant, as scientists bid to harness power of the H-Bomb

The most energetic laser shot in mankind's history was fired at the stadium-sized National Ignition Facility in California this month.

On March 15, an array of 192 lasers fired a shaped pulse of energy that generated 411 trillion watts of peak power - 1,000 times more than whole of the United States uses at any one moment.

The pulse is a historic moment for the 'fusion' facility, which aims to generate power using a nuclear fusion reaction - similar to what happens in hydrogen bombs.

The pulse only lasted for 23 billionths of a second. The laser array was not firing 'at' a target - but within two years, scientists will fire the 192 lasers at a 1mm pellet of hydrogen.

The NIF scientists hope that it will 'light the fuse' for a fusion reaction - the reaction that powers stars - which will release more energy than the lasers put in.

'Controlled' nuclear fusion - the reaction in a hydrogen bomb is uncontrolled - is a Holy Grail of clean energy that scientists have sought to crack since the Fifties.

Because of the incredibly short duration of the pulse, the total amount of energy required is not as huge as it sounds, and is stored in huge battery-like capacitors at NIF. Read More