Stay on target
Researchers in Sydney, Australia, have brought the Star Wars superlaser to life.
Macquarie University scientists have proven a method for multiplying laser power using
kyber crystals diamond.
An analysis, published in Laser and Photonics Reviews, explores a concept where the power of multiple laser beams is transferred into a single intense output beam that can be directed to an intended target.
Rest assured, though: The Aussies probably won’t use their invention to destroy entire planets.
Rather, the powerful lasers are being developed to combat security threats from low-cost drones and missile technology, according to Macquarie associate professor Rich Mildren.
“High-power lasers are also needed in space applications, including powering space vehicles and tackling the growing space junk problem that threatens satellites,” he said in a statement.
The key to this system, as described in a Macquarie University press release, is the placement of an ultra-pure diamond crystal at the point of convergence. Beam-combining is then achieved by channeling a cooperative effect of the crystal; intense light beams transfer power into a selected direction, avoiding beam distortion problems that often plague single-laser technologies.
Other materials have exhibited the same type of properties, but diamond is essential for high power, according to the research. The Force Raman scattering transfer effect at the heart of the device is particularly strong in the element, which also happens to be great at rapidly reducing waste heat.
“This discovery is technologically important as laser researchers are struggling with increasing power beyond a certain level due to the large challenges in handling the large heat build-up,” lead experimentalist Aaron McKay said. “Combining beams from multiple lasers is one of the most promising ways to substantially raise the power barrier.”
If the component, however, lands in the wrong hands, it could spell disaster for the universe.
The first superlaser, installed on the original Death Star, was capable of destroying a planet—as the Galactic Empire proved with the Destruction of Alderaan. A second-gen device was later set up aboard the Death Star II, featuring across-the-board improvements, including a better targeting system and revamped power regulations.