Lab fires a 500-trillion-watt laser — don't stare into the beam

In a move that's bound to make Auric Goldfinger green with envy, scientists in California have test fired a 500 trillion watt laser. In case you're having trouble wrapping your head around that figure, you could simply write it as a five followed by fourteen zeros. Yep, that's a lot of zeroes!

The laser is at the National Ignition Facility of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and was created by combining the beams of 192 individual high powered lasers onto a spot less than a tenth of an inch across.

500 trillion watts is actually about 1,000 times greater than the power consumption of the entire United States at any given moment, so it's probably a good thing that the blast lasted only a millionth of a second.

With that much power you might think that their electric bill would be off the chart, but apparently with such a short duration blast, each shot only adds about $5 to $20 of juice on the electric meter.

In this test, "NIF's 192 lasers fired within a few trillionths of a second of each other onto a 2-millimeter-diameter target," according to a release by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The eventual goal is to fire the beam at a hydrogen pellet resulting in a nuclear fusion reaction that generates more power than the beam puts in. Presumably, this can then lead to new types of power generating facilities.

National Ignition Facility, via Popular Science

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