The military in China has claimed that it has achieved a “major breakthrough” in energy weapons technology. According to a South China Morning Post (SCMP) report, scientists at National University of Defence Technology in Changsha have said that they’ve developed a state-of-the-art cooling system that would allow high-energy lasers to remain powered up “infinitely” without getting too hot. What this mean is weapons can fire a laser beam as long as they want, which experts say can change the warfare scenario forever.
The Chinese research team that has developed the cooling system say that it completely eliminates the harmful heat that is generated during the operation of high-energy lasers.
“This is a huge breakthrough in improving the performance of high-energy laser systems,” SCMP quoted laser weapon scientist Yuan Shengfu as saying in a paper published on August 4 in Acta Optica Sinica, a Chinese-language peer-reviewed journal.
The issue of cooling has been a major technical challenge for laser weapon development.
The US has also been trying to develop high-grade laser systems. These include the Navy Advanced Chemical Laser (NACL), the Middle Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL), the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) and the Space-Based Laser (SBL).
The US military tested these weapons in the field, and some of them even destroyed supersonic missiles, they were cancelled owing to large size and weight of lasers.
Their range was only a few kilometres, but Yuan’s team said to have improved the destructive power of a laser beam.
So, experts are keeping a keen eye on developments in the field.
“If they have overcome the heating and distortion issues as claimed, in a (relatively) small enough unit for deployment, this is a big breakthrough considering the US failures in this area,” former British military official Steve Weaver said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
If they have overcome the heating and distortion issues as claimed, in a (relatively) small enough unit for deployment, this is a big breakthrough considering the US… pic.twitter.com/bjAPebsAWw
— Steve Weaver 🇬🇧🇨🇳🏉 (@SteveWeaverTEFL) August 11, 2023
The new system also has the potential to be more cost-effective than traditional missile-based systems as it does not require expensive munitions and can be recharged quickly. If necessary, China also plans to use laser weapons against satellites such as SpaceX’s Starlink, the outlet further said.
How does a laser work?
According to NASA, laser is a special type of light that has been artificially created. It produces a narrow beam of light in which all the light waves have very similar wavelengths.
The laser’s light waves travel together with their peaks all lined up, of in phase. This unique property makes laser beams very narrow, very bright and focussed into a very tight spot.
They can travel very long distances and concentrate a lot of energy on a very small area.
But a beam is generated through a gain medium, such as a crystal or gas to give the molecules higher energy. A laser, which passing through the air, heats up the gas in its path, creating a turbulent flow.
This turbulence can cause the beam to scatter and distort, reducing its effectiveness and accuracy.
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