Japanese scientists just built (and tested) the world’s most powerful laser

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Jul 30, 2015, 1:02 PM EDT (Updated)

Lasers have been the go-to weapon in science fiction for decades, and now a team of Japanese scientists have created one powerful enough to do some real damage. 

A team of researchers at Osaka University claim to have fired the most powerful laser in the world, a 2-petawatt (two-quadrillion-watt) pulse laser dubbed Laser for Fast Ignition Experiments (LFEX). The test lasted just one picosecond (a trillionth of a second). As Popular Science notes, a 50-kilowatt laser is capable of taking out a drone from two kilometers away. Something this powerful? We’re working toward Death-Star-level tech.

Despite the seemingly immense amount of power, the LFEX didn’t use a ton of juice to generate the test (partially because the test shot was so brief). The high power levels are created by amplifying the signal through a series of glass lamps over the span of the LFEX’s huge, 300-foot length. It’s also worth noting this isn’t the first petawatt laser out there, and the University of Texas at Austin has a 1-petawatt system on its campus. The military is also (obviously) looking closely at the tech.

Though this record-setting test is obviously worth celebrating, the team at Osaka have much loftier goals in mind. Up next, they hope to increase output to 10 petawatts. Once they get that figured out, we’d imagine a planet-destroying delivery mechanism is also in the offing.

(Via Popular Science, Gizmodo)