Lasers do all sorts of interesting things and — as with so many things — more is better. Korean scientists announced recently they’ve created the most powerful laser beam. 1023 watts per square centimeter, to be exact. It turns out that 1022 Watts/cm2 may not be commonplace, but has been done many times already at several facilities, including the CoReLS petawatt (PW) laser used by the researchers.
Just as improving a radio transmitter often involves antenna work instead of actual power increases, this laser setup uses an improved focus mechanism to get more energy in a 1.1 micron spot. As you might expect, doing this requires some pretty sophisticated optics.
Some of those optics are over our heads, but it appears that some deformable mirrors and a closed-loop control system make the difference. There were also some super flat partial mirrors and other exotic optical equipment. We will guess this isn’t a setup most of us could duplicate, but if you could, the paper will probably make more sense.
What do you do with that much laser power? Beats us. But the team says they plan to “…explore strong field QED phenomena, such as the nonlinear Compton scattering and the nonlinear Breit–Wheeler processes, and proton/ion acceleration dominated by the RPA mechanism.” So, in other words, we still don’t know.