Documenting the Coming Singularity

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

World's most powerful laser - Dr. Evil would be green with envy - 1.25.10 (by Phillip F. Schewe, ISNS)

Producing a laser with a power of a terawatt -- equal to one trillion watts -- used to be impressive, but now the forefront of optical research power is measured in 1 quadrillion-watt units known as petawatts. But even that much power isn’t good enough for physics professor Todd Ditmire at the University of Texas at Austin.

Ditmire plans to build an exawatt laser with a power equivalent to 1000 petawatts. But such a super-laser is still years away from actual development. In the meantime, Ditmire already has the most powerful laser in the world.

To get a sense of how much power an exawatt contains, compare it to a typical filament light bulb consuming about 100 W of electricity. The capacity of the entire U.S. electrical grid is about 10 billion times more than this, or about 1 terawatt. So the entire grid could supply enough energy to continuously power 10 billion 100 W light bulbs. A petawatt is 1,000 times more power than that, and an exawatt is 1,000 times greater than a petawatt.

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