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The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has stated it will fund building what is set to become the world’s most powerful laser, in an investment that will support a major upgrade to the STFC Central Laser Facility (who will build it).
The CLF has a variety of lasers that produce plasma, which is typically created by exposing matter to extreme conditions, such as high temperatures or pressures. The UKRI explains that studying the behavior of particles in plasma provides valuable insights into the fundamental properties of matter and its applications in essential products (like batteries for example).
Professor Mark Thomson, Executive Chair of STFC, states: “The Central Laser Facility has been a driving force behind discoveries that have advanced our understanding of diverse areas from the fundamental properties of matter under extreme conditions to the formation of stars and planets.”
According to Interesting Engineering, CLF’s existing “Vulcan” laser has various uses (mainly in plasma physics), but the planned “Vulcan 20-20” laser’s upgrade will be immeasurably brighter.
The “Vulcan 20-20” program is intended to keep the CLF at the cutting edge of the highest-power laser science and enable new experiments in crucial areas like renewable energy research. The upgrade program will take six years and create new positions for many scientists, engineers, designers, and technicians.
The new laser will help researchers better understand many scientific fields, including astrophysical phenomena like supernovae and solar flares. According to Interesting Engineering, planned experiments include creating matter-antimatter pairs using strong electromagnetic fields typically only found in space.