Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


Visual Science: The Laser to End All Lasers

Scientists are completing the world's largest laser—but will it work?

By Tyler NordgrenJune 25, 2008 5:00 AM
Image courtesy of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | NULL


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Two researchers head into the target chamber at the National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California, where the world’s largest laser is being completed. The laser, built for fusion research, has already shown the ability to fire 4 megajoules of infrared energy for up to 20 nanoseconds. Shot into both ends of a tiny gold capsule filled with two frozen hydrogen isotopes, this powerful blast will create plasma around the pea-size target in the center of the capsule. The resulting heat, researchers hope, will fuse the two isotopes inside—leading to virtually endless energy. The immediate goals are to test the current optics, which amplify and shape the laser beam, and then to complete construction of the laser by March 2009. Researchers are optimistic that by 2010 they will achieve “ignition,” the point where more energy is coming out than is being put in. We have been hearing this sort of promise from fusion researchers for years, of course, but this time, scientists have a giant laser to help them deliver the goods.

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In