Massive 10-Petawatt Laser Can Vaporize Matter

A laser one-tenth of the sun’s power on Earth officially debuted in March when researchers in Romania ran the first successful test at 10 petawatts (PW). The laser is one of three in an international project in Europe known as Extreme Light Infrastructure. To date, it is the most powerful laser ever built, and it’s the most concentrated power on the planet.

It’s hard to overstate the enormity of 10PW, which equates to 10 million billion watts. It was only a few years ago that this site referred to a mere 1PW laser as a Death Star. The new one is 10 times as strong. As a point of comparison, laser pointers sold in the US are limited to being at most 0.005-watt for safety.

Origins of a 10PW Laser

The laser in question is part of the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) project, an effort started by scientists in Europe in the mid-2000s and led by French scientist and Nobel Prize winner Gérard Mourou. The purpose of the project is to advance not only laser research infrastructure but also applied science.

The program was granted funding by the European Commission, and within a few years, three countries were chosen to become the homes to three new lasers: Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. At present, the project has received more than 850 million euros, mostly from the European Regional Development Fund.