The World’s Most Powerful Laser to be Built in Oxfordshire

Scientists in Oxfordshire are set to build the world’s most powerful laser, thanks to £85m in new funding. The technology is expected to be a million, billion, billion times brighter than the brightest sunlight and will have practical applications in nuclear fusion, renewable energy, and batteries.

The current most powerful laser at the Central Laser Facility in Oxfordshire is the Vulcan, used in plasma physics. However, the Vulcan 20-20, which will be completed in six years, will have a 20-fold increase in power with eight additional beams, making it the strongest laser in the world.

With a single pulse, this laser will deliver more power than the entire National Grid, in a blast lasting a trillionth of a second on a minuscule target. The construction of the laser will create numerous job opportunities in the science sector, as well as for designers, engineers, and technicians.

Professor Mark Thomson, executive chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which provided the funding, stated, “The Central Laser Facility has been a driving force behind discoveries that have advanced our understanding of diverse areas from the fundamental properties of matter under extreme conditions to the formation of stars and planets.”

Professor John Collier, director of the Central Laser Facility, added, “Vulcan has been the flagship laser at CLF for many years, and widely recognized internationally as a pioneering facility. It is timely for Vulcan to undergo its next major upgrade, making it ready to serve a new generation of scientists, ensuring the UK retains its leadership role in this field.”

The current Vulcan project has already contributed to important research during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping map how the virus infects and damages cells, as well as developing new techniques for security screening in airports. The new laser will not only push the boundaries of astronomy and physics but also contribute to the development of clean energy sources and stimulate the UK science sector, creating hundreds of highly skilled jobs in science and engineering.

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