Laser Breakthrough Makes the Future Shine Bright



A “mere” table-top laser, but this system has recently matched the largest lasers in the world for peak power of a single beam.

Samuel Zagala’s laser laboratory at Stanford University is an improbable setting to break the longest standing record in the history of laser science.



Three optical tables comprise Zagala’s small laser, each table crammed to capacity with optics and amplifiers that scatter second-harmonic green light at ten times a second. A “mere” table-top laser, but this system has recently matched the largest lasers in the world for peak power of a single beam.



Much like peak computer power, laser power rose exponentially between the 1960’s and 1990’s, doubling every year or two. Unlike computers, however, peak laser power leveled off at the end of the century, just above the quadrillion-watt mark.



And without funding for multi-million dollar short-pulse systems, it seemed the record might remain there for decades to come.



But now, thanks to a deceptively simple idea that Zagala came up with as a graduate student…



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