The U.S. is losing ground in a second laser revolution of highly intense, ultrafast lasers that have broad applications in manufacturing, medicine, and national security, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Currently, 80 percent to 90 percent of the high-intensity laser systems are overseas, and all of the highest power research lasers currently in construction or already built are overseas as well. The report makes five recommendations that would improve the nation’s position in the field, including for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to create a broad network to support science, applications, and technology of these lasers, as well as for DOE to plan for at least one large-scale, open-access high-intensity laser facility that leverages other major science infrastructures in the DOE complex.
The report focuses on highly intense pulsed petawatt-class lasers (1 petawatt is equal to 1 million billion watts) that deliver nearly 100 times the total world’s energy consumption rate concentrated into a pulse that lasts less than one picosecond, or one-trillionth of a second. To illustrate the timescale, a picosecond is to one second as one second is to more than 31,000 years. Such laser sources create conditions that can accelerate and collide intense beams of elementary particles, drive nuclear reactions, heat matter to conditions found in stars, or even create matter out of the empty vacuum. These powerful lasers originated in the U.S.; however, research-funding agencies in Europe and Asia began in the last decade to invest heavily in new collaborations and facilities that will employ these high-intensity lasers for broad areas of science.Read more at National Academy of Sciences
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