Laser physicists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have broken the record for the highest-power laser shot with a collection of beams delivering more than 500 trillion watts of peak power. The National Ignition Facility fired 192 beams at the same time, delivering 1.85 megajoules of ultraviolet laser light to a target a mere two millimetres in diameter. To put those numbers into perspective, the 500 terawatt figure is 12,500 times greater than the demand for electricity in 2006 in Britain, which averaged out at 40 gigawatts.
The National Ignition Facility is the world's foremost laser research establishment, producing lasers than can regularly carry more than 100 times the energy of any other laser. The 500 terawatt firing hits a milestone set in the late 90s when the facility was being planned, and takes researchers a step closer to the goal of igniting hydrogen fusion.