New super laser breaks ‘magical barrier’ to become most powerful on Earth

25 Jan 2017

The Bivoj super laser. Image: HiLASE

A team of researchers from the UK and the Czech Republic has taken photonics to a whole new level with a so-called ‘super laser’ that is 10 times more powerful than anything else on Earth.

Despite an apparent boom in the number of photonics projects gearing towards boosting the weaponry of major military powers, some new laser technology is still being put forward for the good of science.

The latest of these lasers has been developed by a partnership between the Central Laser Facility (CLF) in the UK and HiLASE (High average power pulsed laser) in the Czech Republic.

Breaking the ‘magical barrier’

According to AFP, the collaborative team announced the successful testing of a so-called 1,000-watt ‘super laser’ that is 10 times more powerful than any other laser on Earth.

Named Bivoj after the mythical Czech strongman, the researchers have said that the ‘high peak power laser’ is significantly different from other peak power lasers in the world in that it can maintain a steady beam of powerful energy for far longer.

For example, the two-petawatt Laser for Fast Ignition Experiments in Japan is of enormous power, but is limited to a maximum usage of a few times a day.

In terms of scale, this ‘high peak power laser’ is significant, weighing in at 20,000kg and costing €44m. The director of HiLASE, Tomáš Mocek, said that he and his collaborators are delighted that it has surpassed the “magical barrier” of 1,000 watts.

“It’s a huge step forward, like an Olympic victory,” he said to AFP.

Super laser Bivoj

The Bivoj laser at HiLASE. Image: HiLASE

Commercially available this year

Meanwhile, CLF director John Collier said the fact that it is a world record achievement is important for the two centres and photonics research in general.

“It is good for putting things on the map, but the more important point is that the underlying technology that has been developed here is going to transform the application of these high-power, high-energy lasers,” he said.

When introduced into the industrial world later this year, Bivoj could have a number of important applications, particularly in sectors like aeronautics and energy.

However, the UK and Czech researchers have said the next step for Bivaj is to explore what other potential applications can be found using its sheer power.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic