World’s most powerful laser could ‘tear apart the vacuum of space’

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In today’s installment of potentially catastrophic science experiments, scientists have plans to create a giant laser that can emit a beam with an amount of energy equivalent to all of the power the Earth receives from the sun combined, reports Richard Gray in the Telegraph. It is believed such a laser will have the ability to rip apart the vacuum of space — literally boil the underlying fabric of the universe.

This veritable death ray won’t be used to further the aspirations of an evil genius — at least, that’s not its purpose. Instead, scientists hope to prove the existence of tiny bits of matter, pairs of molecules known as “ghost particles,” that are believed to hide in the vacuum of space, but have so far been undetectable by any other means. In addition, scientists hope the laser can help prove the existence of other dimensions. 

“This laser will be 200 times more powerful than the most powerful lasers that currently exist,” said Professor John Collier, a leader of the project, and director of the UK’s Central Laser Facility. “At this kind of intensity we start to get into unexplored territory as it is an area of physics that we have never been before.”

Dubbed the Extreme Light Infrastructure Ultra-High Field laser, or ELI, the project is expected to be completed within the next 10 years, at a cost of about $1.6 billion. The location for the ELI laser has not yet been decided. 

As Gray explains:  

The Ultra-High Field laser will be made up of 10 beams…allowing it to produce 200 petawatts of power – more than 100,000 times the power of the world’s combined electricity production – for less than a trillionth of a second.

In order to achieve such a massive output of power, energy for the laser must be collected for a long period of time before it is fired.

Already, the European Commission has approved plans to build three prototype lasers, each about half as powerful as the ELI Ultra-High Field laser, which will cost more than $320 million, and are expected to be completed by 2015. 

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