Petawatt lasers now and Exawatt and Zettawatt Lasers on the Way

The Texas Petawatt laser was completed March 31, 2008, allowing an immediate demonstration of its 1.1 petawatt power by producing, 200 J, 167 fs pulses.

The US National Ignition Facility is to start firing in 2010

Zettawatt-Exawatt Lasers and Their Applications in Ultrastrong-Field Physics

From 1992-2001, however, we have seen a surge in our ability to produce high intensities, five to six orders of magnitude higher than was possible before. At these intensities, particles, electrons and protons acquire kinetic energy in the mega-electron-volt range through interaction with intense laser fields. This opens a new age for the laser, the age of nonlinear relativistic optics coupling even with nuclear physics. We suggest a path to reach an extremely high-intensity level 10^26−28 W/cm2 in the coming decade, much beyond the current and near future intensity regime 10^23 W/cm2, taking advantage of the megajoule laser facilities. Such a laser at extreme high intensity could accelerate particles to frontiers of high energy, tera-electronvolt and peta-electron-volt, and would become a tool of fundamental physics encompassing particle physics, gravitational physics, nonlinear field theory,
ultrahigh-pressure physics, astrophysics, and cosmology.

A zettawatt system could be built using Yb:glass, with the advantages of being
relatively compact due to the high Fsat of this material and being diode pumpable, much development work needs to be accomplished to reach this intensity level with this material. The proposed systems described below have been stimulated by the construction , both in France and in the U.S, of lasers delivering a few megajoules of energy as well as the availability of large telescope technology (10m diameter) and deformable mirrors

An exawatt system on the other hand,which would produce 10 kJ in 10 fs, i.e., 10^25 W/cm2, could be readily constructed. Only one percent or 30 kJ of the NIF/LMJ energy would be necessary. The beam size will be of the order of one meter in diameter. The amplifying method will be composed of a matrix of 25 Ti:sapphire 20×20 cm2 crystals and two gratings of meter-size.

A tutorial on the Technology and Economics of laser Inertial Fusion by Per Peterson

How IFE works

Europe has extreme light project to plan and build an exawatt laser

Europe also the Hiper project to develop laser fusion.

HiPER proposes to build a demonstrator diode-pump system producing 10 kJ at 1 Hz or 1 kJ at 10 Hz depending on a design choice yet to be made. The best high-repetition lasers currently operating are much smaller; MERCURY at Livermore is about 70 J, HALNA in Japan at ~20 J, and LUCIA in France at ~100 J. HiPER’s demonstrator would thus be between 10 and 1000 times as powerful as any of these. HiPER construction is to begin in 2011 or 2012.

Construction of the HiPER facility is envisaged to start mid-decade, with operation in the early 2020s.