Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Laser

The BELLA laser during construction at Berkeley Lab. It recently delivered a record-breaki...

Not even a month since researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) announced a 500 trillion watt laser shot, researchers at the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) have managed to deliver a record-breaking petawatt, that is, a quadrillion watts, in a pulse just 40 femtoseconds long at a rate of one pulse every second. To put that in perspective, a petawatt is more than the combined output of all electric power plants in the world at any given time and one femtosecond is a quadrillionth of a second.  Read More

The University of Tennessee's regenerative amplifier, used to amplify femtosecond laser pu...

University of Tennessee researchers have developed a super fast laser procedure that could serve as a non-invasive treatment of cancer, particularly when the disease is located in the brain. The new technology was developed at the University’s Center for Laser Applications, and it works by seeking and destroying cancerous tumors.  Read More

The VARIES starship creates its own antimatter for interstellar voyages

As Douglas Adams said, “Space is Big. Really Big." And that’s the major obstacle for travelling between the stars. But a new proposal published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society promises to shrink that distance just a bit. Physics and technology consultant Richard Obousy claims that an antimatter starship that creates its own fuel from the vacuum of space itself would be capable of making a return journey to the nearest star and back within one lifetime.  Read More

500 terawatt shot -  The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility (Photo: Damien Je...

Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) have achieved a laser shot which boggles the mind: 192 beams delivered an excess of 500 trillion-watts (TW) of peak power and 1.85 megajoules (MJ) of ultraviolet laser light to a target of just two millimeters in diameter. To put those numbers into perspective, 500 TW is more than one thousand times the power that the entire United States uses at any instant in time. Pew-Pew indeed ...  Read More

The flight time of the Stalker UAS has been improved by 2,400 percent using a wireless las...

Late last year, DARPA researchers upped the standard two-hour endurance of Lockheed Martin’s Stalker small unmanned aerial system (UAS) by a factor of four using a propane-fueled compact solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). Now the flight time of the aircraft has been improved by a whopping 2,400 percent, with a test flight lasting more than 48 hours using a laser power system to wirelessly transfer power to the UAS from the ground.  Read More

A lightning bolt travels horizontally down a plasma channel from the LIPC before deviating...

Thought that title might get your attention, but shooting lightning bolts down laser beams is just what a device being developed at the Picatinny Arsenal military research facility in New Jersey is designed to do. Known as a Laser-Induced Plasma Channel, or LIPC, the device would fry targets that conduct electricity better that the air or ground that surrounds them by steering lightning bolts down a plasma pathway created by laser beams.  Read More

Scientists are proposing that spacecraft could use solar-powered lasers to deflect an Eart...

The threat of an asteroid hitting our home planet may not an immediate one, but it better be tackled before it becomes imminent. The brief visit of the 99942 Apophis asteroid in 2004 served as a reminder that a collision with Earth is by all means possible. Scientists have been working on a solution since then, and several bold plans were hatched. The latest one comes from Massimiliano Vasile and Christie Maddock from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, who reckon we should build a spacecraft fitted with solar-powered lasers.  Read More

Bouncing blue laser light off the skin provides a non-invasive way to determine levels of ...

Have you had your daily serving of vegetables? This seemingly simple question is in fact very difficult to answer, for children and adults alike. Luckily, a new handheld laser scanner devised by researchers at Yale University and the University of Utah promises to put a swift end to veggie dodging, while also helping scientists to measure exactly how our diet affects our health.  Read More

Lasers have long been used for military applications, as in this US Air Force test, now th...

Weeds are pesky things. They grow everywhere and, by definition, where they’re not wanted. Whether a large-scale farmer or a weekend gardener, everyone who has tried to raise crops has wished that there was a ray gun that could just blast the wretched things out of existence. Now, thanks in part to researchers from the Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH) at the Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany, that frustrated daydream is closer to reality. Through the use of low-powered infrared lasers, the team has found a way to inhibit weed growth without harming neighboring plants, providing an alternative to expensive, hazardous and environmentally-damaging chemicals.  Read More

Researchers have demonstrated a tractor beam using a Bessel beam (not pictured) is theoret...

Last year, we looked at three potential “tractor beam” technologies being evaluated by NASA to deliver planetary or atmospheric particles to a robotic rover or orbiting spacecraft. At the time, the third of these, which involved the use of a Bessel beam, only existed on paper. Researchers at Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have now proven the theory behind the concept, demonstrating how a tractor beam can be realized in the real world – albeit on a very small scale.  Read More

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