Scientists at SLAC decided it was time to upgrade some of their kit, and the result is the laboratory's most powerful laser system ever. The device will create temperatures up to millions of degrees and pressures approaching two trillion pounds per square inch.
The upgraded laser system will run at a peak power of 200 terawatts, which is seven times greater than it was before the upgrade. For a little perspective, that's 100 times the world's total power consumption — but fortunately it only ever occurs for a few quadrillionths of a second, meaning that it doesn't actually use too much energy. One more fun fact: its pulse power is now greater than all of the other 150 laser systems at SLAC combined.
So what will all that power — and the resulting temperatures and pressures — be used for? Lots, actually, from studying how materials transform under stress, to exploring nuclear fusion, and experimenting with exotic forms of matter, including star-like dense plasmas.
Still, SLAC's laser is some way off being the world's most powerful. That title goes to a device at Osaka University, first fired this year, which cranks out a bewildering two petawatts — making it ten times more powerful than the newly upgraded SLAC device.
Image by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory