Feast your eyes (not literally, though) on the most powerful lasers on Earth

In the marge towards the next most powerful lasers, things should only get more exciting.

As time goes on and technological progress marches forward, the line between science fiction and reality seems to get increasingly blurry. Case in point? Lasers. They’ve been around for decades, but nowadays they’re starting to look a lot less like the puny little laser pointers of yesteryear and a lot more like the stuff you see in Star Trek. To give you a taste of how far lasers have come, we’ve compiled a list of the most advanced ones on the planet. From lice-zapping lights to high-powered military weapons, here’s our list of planet Earth’s most powerful lasers. Enjoy!

Wicked Lasers Spyder 3 Pro Arctic

most powerful lasers spyer3

The Spyder 3 handheld laser is no real life lightsaber, nor a “laser shotgun”, but it’s definitely not a toy either. This small but formidable laser has enough juice to permanently blind you — and even light certain materials on fire. The included safety glasses make wielding “the most powerful laser legally purchasable” slightly less risky, but we highly recommend not pushing your luck with this one.

University of Nebraska’s Diocles laser

most powerful lasers diocles

In June of 2017, scientists at the University of Nebraska powered on their ultra-high intensity Diocles laser — a laser that’s reportedly capable of producing light that’s a billion times brighter than light at the surface of the sun. Such intense brightness is created using a fine-tuned compression stage in which the laser is focused into an extremely short, powerful pulse. The potential uses of the university’s new laser are pretty exciting, but for now it operates as a machine of science, helping researchers investigate the relationship between light and matter.

University of Michigan’s Hercules laser

most powerful lasers hercules

Touted as the “most intense laser in the world,” the Hercules laser is slated to get a lot more intense after receiving a sizable donation from the National Science Foundation. With its pending upgrades, Hercules’ power is expected to increase from 300 terawatts to a possible 1000.

With a higher powered Hercules, the team behind the machine thinks the technology could help shrink down particle accelerators to a “tabletop” size, thereby eliminating the need for multi-acre research facilities like CERN. This would help scientists around the world continue to explore the mysteries of our universe from the comfort of their home labs.

The XFEL: X-ray free electron laser

most powerful lasers xfel

As of September 1, 2017, the world’s most powerful image-producing X-ray laser is open for business. Europe’s XFEL, as it’s called, is located 125 feet below the northern city of Hamburg, Germany. The laser is housed in a 3.4 kilometer long tunnel, where it is used to observe chemical reactions at the smallest scale, and record them.

Being able to image things at such a small scale has very big implications — whether it be observing materials as they break down to make them stronger; watching bio-molecules to help understand illnesses and create custom drugs to combat them; or using a laser to create intense pressure and heat to help understand processes like those that occur in the Earth’s core.

Lockheed Martin’s Athena modular laser system

Lockheed Martin laser truck

The last laser on our list stands apart for a few different reasons: It’s portable, it’s modular, and it can even shoot down airplanes and disable vehicles. That’s right — this laser actually shoots stuff.

In 2015, Lockheed showcased the Athena laser’s destructive capabilities by disabling a small boat, igniting the tail fin of a flying drone, and melting through the engine block of a small truck. Furthermore, the system is so small and lightweight that it can easily be fitted onto existing warships, and in the future, potentially even trucks and tanks.

While a future of war isn’t something anyone wants, this technology may end up being our only defense against interplanetary threats that conventional weapons are too slow to combat, such as asteroids and meteors.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Photography news: Careful, self-driving cars can ruin your camera sensor

In this week's photography news, learn how self-driving cars destroyed a digital camera via lasers. Find out how many patents Canon filed for in 2018. Read about what Tamron lenses are available for the Nikon Z6.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.