Revolutionary Laser Unleashed in Romania

Revolutionary Laser Unleashed in Romania
Revolutionary Laser Unleashed in Romania

In the control room of a research center in Romania, engineer Antonia Toma activates the world's most powerful laser, which promises revolutionary advances in everything from the health sector to space.

The laser at the center, near the Romanian capital Bucharest, is operated by French company Thales, using Nobel prize-winning inventions.

France's Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland of Canada won the 2018 Nobel Physics Prize for harnessing the power of lasers for advanced precision instruments in corrective eye surgery and in industry.

"The sharp beams of laser light have given us new opportunities for deepening our knowledge about the world and shaping it," said the Nobel Academy's citation.

At the center, in front of a wall of screens displaying light beams, Toma checks a series of indicators before starting the countdown.

On the other side of the glass, long rows of red and black boxes house two laser systems.

Nobel prize winner Mourou confessed he was "very moved" by his "incredible odyssey" -- from the United States where he spent 30 years, to bringing this project to fruition in Europe.

It was born in the 2000s out of the European Union's Infrastructure ELI project.

"We start from a small luminous seed with very, very little energy, which will be amplified millions and millions of times," said Mourou, 79, trying to give a sense of the "huge step taken", the "phenomenal powers" achieved.

Scientists have always pushed to create more powerful lasers.

The system is capable of reaching a peak of 10 petawatts (10 to the power of 15 watts) for an ultra-short time, in the order of a femtosecond (one millionth of a billionth of a second).

The high-tech building housing the center cost $350 million, mainly financed by the EU.

Thales bills it as the largest investment ever made in scientific research in Romania.