10-terawatt laser fits on a desktop

A group of physicists from the Laser Center of the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Faculty of Physics of the Warsaw University have teamed up to create a new type of optical amplifier for lasers. The creation of the amplifier has allowed the team of scientists to create a laser producing 10-terawatts of power that is small enough to fit on a desktop.

According to the team of scientists, the laser apparatus is extremely efficient and generates 10-terawatt light pulses. The laser light pulses are very short, in the femtosecond range. Scientists believe that the new amplifier is an important step towards the construction of portable and relatively low-cost, high-power laser devices that can be used to revolutionize anti-cancer therapies and more.

The researchers say that in theory the parametric amplifiers can reach over 50% efficiency. Currently the best amplifiers of the type operate at about 30% efficiency. The laser the researchers have developed has already reached that 30% efficiency level in a very compact device. The scientists are also still improving the set up and will increase the amplifier efficiency by a few more percent.

The scientists say the parametric amplifier is able to transfer energy directly from the pumping laser beam to the beam being amplified, resulting in input energy that isn't stored anywhere. This means there are no thermal side effects and the amplified pulses have excellent parameters. Parametric amplifiers can amplify light by hundreds of millions of times along an optical path of only a few centimeters according to the scientists.

This is why the resulting lasers using this type of amplifier can be very small compared to other high-power optics standards. The scientists plan to use the new amplifier to construct an x-ray source and to generate experimentally protons and secondary neutrons.

Dr Yuriy Stepanenko (IPC PAS), the chief constructor of the amplifier said:

Theoretically, the efficiency of parametric amplifiers can reach over 50%. In practice, the best amplifiers of this type are operated at an efficiency of about 30%. We have reached this level already now, and what's more, in a really compact device. We still improve our setup. In the coming months we are going to increase the amplifier's efficiency by another a few per cent on one hand, while on the other we intend to increase the power of laser pulses up to a few tens of terawatts.

SOURCE: Eurekalert