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World’s most powerful laser to be built in UK and will be ‘millions, billions, billions’ times brighter than the sun

Vulcan 20-20 will help scientists working on nuclear fusion, understanding plasma, new renewable energy sources and studying electromagnetic fields.

By Chris Lockyer, news reporter @_chrislockyer


Wednesday 27 September 2023 1:13 PM, United Kingdom

The world’s most powerful laser is to be built in Oxfordshire, thanks to new £85m funding for the technology.

Scientists aim to develop technology that will be “millions, billions, billions of times brighter than the brightest sunlight” in the world.

The technology is believed to have practical applications in nuclear fusion, renewable energy and batteries.

The most powerful laser currently at the Central Laser Facility in Oxfordshire is the Vulcan, which is used in plasma physics.

The Vulcan 20-20 will have 20 times the power with eight additional beams, making it the most powerful laser in the world.

A single pulse of the laser will deliver more power than the entire National Grid, in a burst lasting a trillionth of a second on a tiny target.

Construction of the laser will take six years to complete, creating numerous jobs in the scientific sector, as well as for designers, engineers and technicians.

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Professor Mark Thomson, chief executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which provided the funding, said: “The Central Laser Facility has been a driving force behind discoveries that have advanced our understanding of various areas of the properties fundamental elements 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 CLF’s flagship laser for many years and has been widely recognized internationally as a pioneering facility.

“Over the past 40 years, it has made important contributions to plasma physics research and hundreds of PhD students have trained at the facility.

“It is timely that Vulcan undergoes its next major upgrade, preparing it to serve a new generation of scientists, ensuring the UK retains its leading role in this field.”



Image:
The Vulcan laser, which currently holds the title of the most powerful in the world. Photo: Fisher Studios

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The current Vulcan project helped map how COVID infects and damages cells during the pandemic, as well as developing new techniques for airport security checkpoints.

Science Minister George Freeman said: “Reestablishing Britain as home to the world’s most powerful laser is an exciting opportunity to explore the unexplored in astronomy and physics, move towards new sources of clean energy for the good of our planet and much more.

“By investing £85 million to give our research community the advantage of leading crucial scientific discoveries, we are also creating hundreds of highly skilled science and engineering jobs that boost the UK’s science sector and grow our economy.”



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