Giant lasers are the epitome of futuristic technology. Or evil geniuses, depending on the type of films you grew up watching. Try to imagine 192 giant lasers taking up the length of three football fields giving out 500 trillion watts of energy. That’s almost impossible for me to picture without remembering Hitler’s incredible plan for dominance which involved building a giant gun which was 155ft long. Always makes me chuckle. What a crazy, crazy man.
A team lead by a researcher with one of the best names I have ever heard, Omar Hurricane, from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory used the 192 giant lasers in the aptly named National Ignition Facility to produce nuclear fusion. More importantly, they got more energy out than they put in, which is world first, and an important step forward in the search for alternative sources of energy. The idea with nuclear fusion is to smash two or more nuclei together to form a new one. In the case of this experiment, researchers were using hydrogen fuel and getting helium back.
Only 1% of the lasers’ energy actually hit the fuel, so they did not get 500 trillion watts of energy out of the experiment. But, considering this is the first time they have successfully completed it after many failed attempts. And with the facility having been built at a cost of $3 billion to the taxpayer they are probably as happy as Larry, who apparently “was a successful pugilist who never lost a fight. He retired at 32 and collected a purse of £1,000 for his final fight.” So there you go. [Source]