Who doesn’t want to wield a lightsaber? Well, we certainly do. Sadly, they aren’t a reality yet, but we are getting there. In other Star Wars tech getting closer to reality, ‘superlasers’ are apparently possible to create. The superlaser on the Death Star works with eight high-power beams generated using Kyber crystals converging together to merge into a single powerful beam, strong enough to decimate an entire planet. According to new Australian research, multiple lasers can be combined using a diamond to ultimately give off a single amplified beam. This superlaser concept will find applications in the real world, mostly in areas of defense.
Can I use a diamond from my mom’s necklace?
Definitely not. The basic requirement is a super-pure diamond crystal placed at the point where the multiple laser beams converge. Crystals consist of a property that changes the direction of light beams, a single laser beam in this case. This crystal will also ensure that the laser beam doesn’t get distorted which results in less energy lost. This method also changes the colour of the laser beam. Having control over the colour of the resultant laser beam can be helpful to prevent eye problems for people nearby. Also, certain wavelengths travel more efficiently through the atmosphere. Diamonds exhibit a strong power-transfer effect known as Raman scattering, essential for high power laser beam applications. Diamonds also dissipate heat well, which is handy because laser systems often overheat.
So we can destroy Mercury already?
Not yet. Though some would question the need to destroy planets, if it’s for science, why not? In order to blow a planet to smithereens, we’d require the laser to deliver an energy equivalent to the minimum gravitational binding energy of the planet – the force that holds the planet together. You’d need an equivalent (at least) level of energy to be targeted at the core to cause a planet to explode.
Let’s take Earth for example. It would take about 2×10^32 J of energy to blow up the planet that we call home. To put things into perspective, the Sun’s power output is around 4×10^26 J per second. Japan’s Osaka University claimed that they were able to have fired the world’s most powerful laser. Osaka’s LFEX or Laser for Fast Ignition Experiments fired a 2-petawatt (two quadrillion watt) pulse for a picosecond (a trillionth of a second), generating an energy of only a mere 2000 J. Even if we eliminate the heating issues of the system, the laser will be able to generate an energy of only 2×10^15 J if fired for one second. This is nowhere close to the amount of energy required to blow up a planet the size of the Earth.
So what can we blow up then?
The primary application of high-power lasers is obvious, to blow stuff up. Drones and missiles posing a threat can be effectively taken down with these high-power lasers. A German military company Rheinmetall Defense has already tested this with a 50kW laser to bring down a drone 1km away travelling at a speed of 180 kmph. Another application of high-power laser is to shoot down space junk hurtling towards our planet or the orbiting satellites. So, no blowing up planets for now, but there’s a lot of blowing other stuff up that can be attempted.