Japanese scientists fire the world's most powerful laser

A team of researchers from Osaka University recently fired the most powerful laser on the planet: a 2 petawatt pulse, that's 2 quadrillion watts, albeit for just one trillionth of a second. It's called the LFEX (Laser for Fast Ignition Experiments) and it measures more than 300 feet in length. Interestingly, while the LFEX boasts immense power, it doesn't actually require that much energy to operate.

If you remember your high school physics class, power (aka watts) is energy over time. And since the Osaka team is dealing with a picosecond time span, the device doesn't need much energy to generate a massive amount of wattage. In fact, for this experiment, the LFEX only consumed a couple hundred joules, about as much energy as your microwave does over the course of two seconds. It's able to generate so much power so quickly thanks to a series of glass "lamps" that amplified the laser as it passed through them.

"With heated competition in the world to improve the performance of lasers, our goal now is to increase our output to 10 petawatts," Junji Kawanaka, an associate professor of electrical engineering at Osaka University, said in a statement. Sure this is an impressive feat of scientific engineering but what good is the LFEX if it can't shoot down a missile like the US Navy's does?

[Image Credit: top - Getty Images/iStockphoto, inline - Osaka University]