Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to Speak Aug. 28 at Dedication, Demonstration of World’s Most Powerful Laser

Aug. 25, 2008

Event: U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr., will dedicate the Texas Petawatt Laser on Thursday. Scientists will demonstrate aspects of the laser during the event. The Tower will be lit orange during the evening to commemorate this event.

When: Thursday, Aug. 28, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.

Where: Basement of Robert Lee Moore Hall on The University of Texas at Austin campus.

Background: The Texas Petawatt laser, at one quadrillion watts, is the highest-powered laser in the world. It is the only operating petawatt laser in the United States.

When the laser is turned on, it has the power output of more than 2,000 times the output of all power plants in the United States. It is brighter than sunlight on the surface of the sun, but only for a 10th of a trillionth of a second (0.0000000000001 second).

Professor of Physics Todd Ditmire and his colleagues at the Texas Center for High-Intensity Laser Science will use the laser to create and study matter at some of the most extreme conditions in the universe, including gases at temperatures greater than those in the sun and solids at pressures of many billions of atmospheres. The laser will allow them to explore many astronomical phenomena in miniature. They will create mini-supernovas, tabletop stars and very high-density plasmas that mimic exotic stellar objects known as brown dwarfs. The Texas Petawatt will also be used to study aspects of advanced concepts for laser-driven controlled nuclear fusion, which is being studied world wide as a means for producing clean abundant energy. The Texas Petawatt was built with funding provided by the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the U. S. Department of Energy.

For more information, contact: Lee Clippard, College of Natural Sciences, 512-232-0675.