Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Power Science Technology

U of MI Produces Strongest Laser Ever 244

Posted by Zonk
from the now-we-just-need-a-really-big-shark-and-we're-set dept.
eldavojohn writes "Weighing in at a mere 20 billion trillion watts per square centimeter and containing a measly 300 terawatts of power, the University of Michigan has broken a record with a 1.3-micron speck wide laser. It's about two orders of magnitude higher than any other laser in the world and can perform for 30 femtoseconds once every ten seconds — some of the researchers speculate it is the most powerful laser in the universe. 'If you could hold a giant magnifying glass in space and focus all the sunlight shining toward Earth onto one grain of sand, that concentrated ray would approach the intensity of a new laser beam made in a University of Michigan laboratory ... To achieve this beam, the research team added another amplifier to the HERCULES laser system, which previously operated at 50 terawatts. HERCULES is a titanium-sapphire laser that takes up several rooms at U-M's Center for Ultrafast Optical Science. Light fed into it bounces like a pinball off a series of mirrors and other optical elements. It gets stretched, energized, squeezed and focused along the way.'" And ... cue the evil chortling.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

U of MI Produces Strongest Laser Ever

Comments Filter:
  • Cool (Score:5, Funny)

    by Charcharodon (611187) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @04:35AM (#22451786)
    Now if you can get it to fit in the weapons bay of a B1-B we might have something.
    • Re:Cool (Score:5, Funny)

      by Shakrai (717556) * on Sunday February 17, 2008 @04:39AM (#22451812) Journal

      Now if you can get it to fit in the weapons bay of a B1-B we might have something.

      Popcorn [imdb.com]!

    • Not so cool (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KiloByte (825081)
      And, pray tell, what would a mere 9 joules pulse accomplish anything from a B1-B?

      That "300 terawatts" is nothing if you take into account how short the beam lasts.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Hmmm, joke... about ejaculating.... must resist..... Post Anonymously - check...
      • Re:Not so cool (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Charcharodon (611187) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @05:40AM (#22452108)
        I make a movie reference and all I get is a physics Nazi. Well at least the first reply got it.

        Really what did I expect, 3/4 of the people here weren't even born yet or were still shitting their diapers when Real Genius came out.

        I guess I should have wasted "first post" on something obvious like "Sharks with frikin' laser beams attached to their heads"

        If you've never seen the movie, your ability to post on /. is hereby suspsended until you do.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I make a movie reference and all I get is a physics Nazi.
          Welcome to Slashdot. :)
        • ?

          It's a physics article. Of course you get a physics debate.

          And what's with the name calling and ranting?
        • by gadzook33 (740455)

          If you've never seen the movie, your ability to post on /. is hereby suspsended until you do.

          Hear hear
        • by Shakrai (717556) *

          I make a movie reference and all I get is a physics Nazi

          Don't feel too bad. One time I made a reference to "Federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison" and wound up spending the next two days explaining to someone that, no, I don't "support" prison rape, it was a reference to Office Space and one that should be known to any self-respecting Geek and/or /. poster.

          What kills me is the mods that don't get it either. There should be some sort of test before you get mod points ;) Knowledge of common /. themes and jokes should be required :P

          I guess I should have wasted "first post" on something obvious like "Sharks with frikin' laser beams attached to their heads"

          Nah, that wouldn't have w

      • Rubbish (Score:5, Informative)

        by littleghoti (637230) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @10:46AM (#22453546) Journal
        Article is wrong. Vulcan in the UK is a 1 petawatt laser, which is 3 times more powerful, and has been running since 2004:
        http://www.clf.rl.ac.uk/news/CLF_News/vulcanpetawatt.htm [rl.ac.uk]

        They even have a plaque from the Guinness book of records.
    • Re:Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RDW (41497) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @05:26AM (#22452058)
      I think the University of Michigan researchers have a rather different weapons platform in mind:

      http://media.www.michigandaily.com/media/storage/paper851/news/2006/02/20/Science/Sharks.The.Initial.Frontier-1620047.shtml [michigandaily.com]

    • by Z00L00K (682162)
      Which would be just a load of unusable overhead. A laser designed for science is usually not really useful for blowing up things. What it can be useful for is rather to pinpoint and manipulate things on atomic scale. Another use can be long-distance precision measurements, like sending a pulse to Jupiter and measure the distance with precision. (which probably would be useless anyway since the momentarily thickness of the clouds on Jupiter will have an impact on the measurement).

      One must question if it re

      • "Slaps forehead"

        It's a movie reference genius. Not a budgetary proposal for a new weapons systems.

        You Geek status is suspended.

  • Now all they have to do is build a huge moon-sized military base around it.
  • by F34nor (321515) *
    /rumor/ Is this more powerful than DARPA's EM laser where they drilled a hole in the earth, made a spherical chamber, and set off a nuke in it? The idea being that the chamber would shape the EM pulse into a coherent beam.
  • by andy314159pi (787550) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @04:37AM (#22451802) Journal

    20 billion trillion watts per square centimeter and containing a measly 300 terawatts of power
    God, I hope they provide the students operating that thing with some safety goggles.
  • Yes but... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Johnno74 (252399)
    This development is clearly useless until the system is miniturised to the point it can be mounted on a shark.
  • Kegels (Score:5, Funny)

    by Smordnys s'regrepsA (1160895) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @04:42AM (#22451826) Journal

    [It] can perform for 30 femtoseconds once every ten seconds


    That's nothing! I can perform for 3 seconds once every ten minutes!
    • by Shakrai (717556) *

      That's nothing! I can perform for 3 seconds once every ten minutes!

      Yeah, but can you hammer a six-inch spike through a board with your penis?

  • by howlingmadhowie (943150) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @04:50AM (#22451880)
    20 billion trillion watt per square centimeter = 2x10^26 Wm^-2
    300 terawatt of power = 3x10^14 W
    1.3 micron wide = ca. 1.7x10^-12 m^2 (for a square shape)
    30 femtosecond = 3x10^-14 s

    hope that clarifies things.
    • by ebcdic (39948) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @06:55AM (#22452382)
      ... 9 Joules delivered in each pulse, one every 10 seconds. Giving an average power of about 1 Watt. Ideal for taking over very small universes.

      • by raehl (609729)
        Ideal for taking over very small universes. ... that happen to have addresses ending in "Ann Arbor MI".
    • by Mike1024 (184871) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @07:43AM (#22452538)
      300 terawatt of power = 3x10^14 W
      30 femtosecond = 3x10^-14 s


      The duty cycle is 30 femtoseconds per 10 seconds.

      If the '300 terrawatts' of power is consumed for 30 femtoseconds per 10 seconds, the average power consumption over 10 seconds is (3 * ((10^14) W) * 3 * ((10^(-14)) s)) / (10 s) = 0.9 watts

      If, on the other hand, the 300 terrawatts is the average power consumption over 10 seconds, the power consumption when the laser is on is (3 * ((10^14) W) * (10 s)) / (3 * (10^(-14)) s) = 1.0 × 10^29 watts = 100,000 yottawatts

      Yotta- is the largest SI prefix, and the total energy output of the Sun is 383 YW.

      I suspect the former interpretation is more likely. This laser isn't so impressive when you realise it takes less power than my computer monitor... when my computer monitor is turned off.
    • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes@xmsnet . n l> on Sunday February 17, 2008 @09:51AM (#22453216)

      hope that clarifies things.
      Duh, this is Slashdot. We want to know how many Libraries of Congress this laser can vaporize in a fortnight.
  • by NitroWolf (72977) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @04:53AM (#22451890)
    So this is like a serious question:

    What can you do with this thing? Why does it exist? Just to say it's there, or does it have some function beyond bragging rights?

    • by Detritus (11846) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @05:06AM (#22451968) Homepage
      There is a lot of interesting materials science done with lasers that produce very short and very intense pulses of light. This laser might be useful for something like that. There is also the possibility of using it for long distance communication or ranging. Radar systems get decent range by transmitting short pulses of RF at very high power levels. The average power is low enough to keep power consumption and heat dissipation at manageable levels.
      • There is also the possibility of using it for long distance communication or ranging.

        Long distances ? maybe, but not very good for Quake, etc...
        C:\>ping home

        Pinging home [192.168.1.1] with 32 bytes of data:
        Reply from 192.168.1.1: bytes=32 time=10000ms TTL=63
        Reply from 192.168.1.1: bytes=32 time=10000ms TTL=63
        Reply from 192.168.1.1: bytes=32 time=10000ms TTL=63
        Reply from 192.168.1.1: bytes=32 time=10000ms TTL=63

        Ping statistics for 192.168.1.1:
        Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% l

    • Well, is it particularily necessary to do something with it for the moment? After discovering the basic principle of electromagnetic induction in 1831, Michael Faraday was asked by a skeptical politician what good might come of electricity. "Sir, I do not know what it is good for," Faraday replied. "But of one thing I am quite certain - someday you will tax it."
  • by imsabbel (611519) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @04:55AM (#22451906)
    Because focussed correctly, the extremely high field strenght in the focal point can create effects that at first seem physically implausible.

    For example there is one effect that seems to "break" quantum phyiscs (or more exactly, the photo-effect): You can excite electrons out of energy levels that are bound stronger than the photon energy. Even if they are bound _a_ lot stronger. The electric fields can be strong enough to strip atoms from everything down to and including the k-shell (I have one seen a presenter show a silde mentioning 37-photon effects...)
    This can be used to create hard x-rays, or, of course, as a particle accelerator: You can GeV on ion energyies from them with a relatively simple setup.

    This is of course for "normal" FS-Lasers, wich fill not much more than a large optical bank. But something tells me that _this_ one can make even more intersting stuff happen :)
    • by JohnFluxx (413620) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @06:24AM (#22452256)
      I got annoyed at the way the photo-electric effect was taught. It had always seemed 'obvious' that if a single photon didn't have enough energy to free an electron, then maybe two photons struck the metal at the same time.

      I found out later that my hunch was correct - it's just unlikely for two photons to hit an atom at exactly the same (to within a plancks time) with a low powered laser.

      While I'm on the subject of laser, another cool things about high powered lasers is that the photons can collide. If you shine two beams so that they cross paths, some photons will collide with each other and scatter. This has always fascinated me since it shows that the distinction between matter and light is a very fine one indeed.

      Another cool thing about this laser is that the pulse is very short. Now because the position is being constrained (since it's a short pulse), it must mean that the momentum is very uncertain. (You cannot know the position and velocity of something at the same time). This in turn means that the laser has a whole range of wavelengths - it does not have a specific wavelength. Which, to me, makes it very un-laser-like. It's not coherent, monochromatic, etc.
      • by ortholattice (175065) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @07:26AM (#22452478)
        I found out later that my hunch was correct - it's just unlikely for two photons to hit an atom at exactly the same (to within a plancks time) with a low powered laser.

        A Planck time (10^-43 s)? How do you conclude that number?

        If you shine two beams so that they cross paths, some photons will collide with each other and scatter.

        The actual mechanism, I believe, is that a photon can momentarily fluctuate into a charged fermion/antifermion pair, and the cross-beam interacts with those particles.

      • by imsabbel (611519)
        You shouldnt argue in terms of planck units. They simply dont fit well into the physics (being on the border of the laws).

        Its a much easier picture if you just think about the particle / wave aspect of photons:
        Photoeffect is, basically, strictly particle. But considering the wave nature of photons, you have a wavepacket that has a physical size. This allows for many photons to have a probability of existing in the _same_ spot, at the _same_ time. Now all you need is fermis golden rule, and some matrix eleme
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I got annoyed at the way the photo-electric effect was taught. It had always seemed 'obvious' that if a single photon didn't have enough energy to free an electron, then maybe two photons struck the metal at the same time.

        OBVIOUSLY YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND TIME CUBE.

        Seriously though, at the same 'time'? What is this 'time' thing of which you speak? Did I miss a memo, did we discover the quantum unit of time? Because if not... well, let me just leave that sentence hanging for you.

        A question I would like the answer to is how long does it take for an atom to radiate a photon after being struck with a photon of sufficient energy to cause reradiation? If the period is sufficiently long it seems intuitively clear that multiple ph

        • by JohnFluxx (413620)
          > A question I would like the answer to is how long does it take for an atom to radiate a photon after being struck with a photon of sufficient energy to cause reradiation?

          This is determined by the uncertainty principle as well. The uncertainty (and thus average time) is determined by the energy. The larger the energy, the larger the uncertainty in the time, and so longer before the atom decays.

          You can have one photon cause an atom to excite, then a second photon to cause the atom to excite further. B
    • by jd (1658)
      IIRC, femtosecond pulse lasers usually get mentioned with all kinds of freakish things, like ultrablack materals. In this case, I suspect the problem will be finding any material afterwards for reasons other than stealth.
  • Now all they have to do is use it against the RIAA.
  • by LS (57954) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @05:06AM (#22451970) Homepage
    I guess these researchers don't consider the possibility that there may be advanced extraterrestrial civilization. Perhaps they should say the KNOWN universe

    LS
    • by ccguy (1116865) *

      I guess these researchers don't consider the possibility that there may be advanced extraterrestrial civilization. Perhaps they should say the KNOWN universe

      If they said that, someone would come here saying that just because it's not KNOWN to us (or them) it doesn't mean it isn't known by anyone else...surely if there's such a powerful laser in the universe someone (possibly not on Earth) must know about it.

      The thing with being a pedantic is that there's always someone who can beat you to it, AND it's

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Lehk228 (705449)
      i'm sure they did consider that possibility, hence the work on high powered lasers.
  • Caution... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lazarian (906722) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @05:07AM (#22451978)
    Do not stare into laser with remaining head.
  • by tokki (604363) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @05:14AM (#22452010)
    All you would need is a tracking system and a large spinning mirror, and you could vaporize a human target from space.
  • by TBerben (1061176) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @05:27AM (#22452064)
    Student: What are we going to do with this immensely powerful laser, professor?
    Professor: We shall commence "Phase 2", we shall place the "la-ser" on something called "the moon"
    Student: And then we can hold the world ransom for a horrendously large amount of money :D
    Professor: Hell no! We're going to wipe all other universities off the face of the Earth!
  • it is the most powerful laser in the universe

    Only if there is no other intelligent life in the universe in which case any technology that is the best in some way on earth is also the best in the universe.

    Anyway, what can it do? You'd think they would give some examples of burning holes through stuff.
    • Re:In the universe? (Score:5, Informative)

      by TapeCutter (624760) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @06:25AM (#22452266) Journal
      I think they were refering to the known universe and alluding to natural lasers [google.com.au].

      In contrast the best particle beams on the planet get a few gold atoms to near light speed, while the natural ones can easily get the planet Jupiter moving at that pace.
      • by evanbd (210358)
        And, at least for protons (as opposed to larger atomic nuclei), something out there has anything we can build beat [wikipedia.org] by a wide, wide margin...
    • Re:In the universe? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TropicalCoder (898500) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @09:34AM (#22453094) Homepage Journal

      Anyway, what can it do?

      Discussion so far seems to have missed one little line, where they say it may be powerful enough to boil the vacuum of space, and perhaps bring virtual particles into existence. Think about that for a minute - matter from nothing... kind'a scary, isn't it? Like in those super particle accelerators where they just might end up creating microscopic black holes. So one of these little black holes would start sucking in matter and not stop until the whole world is consumed. Well there we go - this laser could be the antidote for that. We have all these particles popping into existence over there at the that university with the laser, and a little black hole on the other side of the ocean sucking up matter, and an infinite loop between creating and destroying and us all caught in the middle. I think physics is getting into dangerous territory.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...suddenly begins new research into building even LARGER laser.
    • ...suddenly begins new research into building even LARGER laser.
      yes, they've been looking for the necessary technology to light their couches on fire within a femtosecond after a football game.
  • Inquiring minds want to know... to run this thing, do they have an on-premises nuclear reactor, or just an obscenely high electric bill? TFA is short on details in that department.

    I know it's not actually using that full rated 300 terawatts ("300 times the capacity of the entire U.S. electricity grid") in such incredibly short bursts, but nonetheless, it's still got to eat a lot of juice.
  • Out of honest curiosity, at what do they point such a strong laser? My movie-fed ignorance has me imagining the beam burning through walls.
  • by ozbird (127571) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @08:13AM (#22452634)
    "If you could hold a giant magnifying glass in space and focus all the sunlight shining toward Earth onto one grain of sand, that concentrated ray would approach the intensity of a new laser beam made in a University of Michigan laboratory ..."

    Please, won't someone think of the ants?!
  • Ok, maybe just the planet,... still a long way to go before planet Mars has to worry,... Or, do we take out Venus instead? Venus is a peaceful planet, which might make for a more effective demonstration to scare those pesky, war-mongering Martians,... ;-)
  • Muhahaha! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Beefslaya (832030) on Sunday February 17, 2008 @01:18PM (#22454714)
    They are going to focus it on the Horseshoe, and vaporize Jim Tressel.

    Watch for the spread offense.

    Go Blue!
  • http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap971129.html [nasa.gov]

    I'm not sure I believe that Eta Carina is producing natural laser, but if it is, I'll bet it's more powerful than the M-Go Blue Ray. And apparently has a very precise aiming mechanism to hit us so that we can detect it. If not, it's spewing all that radiation in all directions and we got lucky to detect it. That is more than 9 joules.

I'm all for computer dating, but I wouldn't want one to marry my sister.

Working...