Laboratory for Laser Energetics
University Dedicates ‘Petawatt’ Omega EP
The University officially introduced its new “petawatt”—or million billion watt—laser at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in May. Special guests U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, U.S. Reps. Thomas Reynolds and Randy Kuhl, and Undersecretary and National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Thomas D’Agostino took part in the dedication ceremony.
The new laser, Omega Extended Performance (EP), comprises a set of four ultra-high-intensity laser beams that will unleash a petawatt of power onto a target just a millimeter across. Working in conjunction with the laboratory’s original 60-beam Omega laser, the Omega EP will open the door to “fast ignition,” a possible new avenue toward clean fusion power.
The original Omega laser fires multi-trillion-watt bursts of energy—greater than the entire electrical generating capacity of the United States—making it one of the three most powerful lasers in the world. But Omega will become approximately 50 times more powerful with Omega EP. To release energy at a level required for electricity production, the fusion fuel must be heated to about 100 million degrees—more than six times hotter than the interior of the sun.
Omega and Omega EP will facilitate research impossible to attempt almost anywhere else on earth. The way matter behaves in stars can be replicated on a small scale inside Omega’s target chamber. Laser and material technologies, electro-optics, and plasma physics will also be able to be studied under conditions never before possible.