Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have created the world's highest peak-power laser diode array, capable of creating up to 3.2 megawatts. The new device will be used in Europe's new Extreme Light facility, which will be as badass as it sounds.
The diode array will sit within the High-Repetition-Rate Advanced Petawatt Laser System at the European Union's Extreme Light Infrastructure Beamlines facility, which is being built in the Czech Republic. The new array is designed as a replacement for flashlamps, which are currently used as the primary light source for laser sources in extreme light testing facilities. Flashlamp installations typically create light pulses once per second; the new array can fire 10 times per second, sending out kilojoule laser pulses each time. Andy Bayramian, one of the researchers working on the project, explains:
"Flashlamp technology for lasers has been around for more than 50 years, and we've pretty much pushed the limits of that technology and maxed out what we can do with them. We've closed the books on flashlamps and started a new one with these laser diode arrays, enabling a far more advanced class of high-energy laser systems."
The new array uses a pulsed-power system that draws electricity from the grid and then converts it into "extremely high-current, precisely shaped electrical pulses." By high current, they mean a staggering 40,000 amps. The complete High-Repetition-Rate Advanced Petawatt Laser System will produce laser pulses with powers greater than one petawatt at a repetition rate of 10 Hertz, with each pulse lasting 30 femtoseconds. It should be up and running by 2017. [Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory]