What the world’s most powerful laser could do for the UK

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In six years time, the UK will house what’s set to become the world’s most powerful laser. According to its developers, it will be “a million, billion, billion times brighter” than the brightest daylight of the Sahara Desert.

To realise this ambitious endeavour, the Central Laser Facility (CLF) of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) will begin construction of the laser at its base in South Oxfordshire. The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is funding the project with £85mn.

The CLF already houses a suite of lasers to study the fourth state of matter, known as plasma, enabling scientists to examine particle behaviour and gain insights into the fundamental properties of all matter, including in products such as batteries.

CLF’s flagship and most powerful laser to date is the so-called Vulcan, which has helped make significant contributions to plasma physics research. But amid increasing demand for use and growing competition in the sector, “it is timely for Vulcan to undergo its next major upgrade, making it ready to serve a new generation of scientists, ensuring the UK retains its leadership role in this field,” said professor John Collier, Director of CLF.

Vulcan laser