In co- ordination with the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the scientists injected a sustained 500 kilovolts (kV) of juice into a prototype accelerator where the existing limit had been 320 kV, thereby setting a new world record, Fox News reports.
Carlos Hernandez Garcia, Director of the injector of the electron and gun systems for the Free Electron Laser (FEL), said: "This is brand new. It has not been done before, in the world," adding that this breakthrough was the culmination of six years of development.
When asked about its importance for the Navy, Quentin Salter, programme manager for ONR said that FEL stepped up transition to newer, more powerful laser technologies.
"The military now uses solid-state lasers that use crystals and glass, as well as chemical lasers that use often dangerous liquid materials. The FEL is different. It requires only electrons, which can be created from matter inside the injector with energy that is constantly recycled. In other words, it uses less shipboard power than current weapons systems. It won't slow down the ship," he said.
At present FEL technology is housed in an accelerator fitted in an underground bunker, almost the size of a football field and is fitted with enough piping, conductors, cables and other materials to fill a small gymnasium.
The Navy now needs to figure out how to harness this electron beam into a light ray and also find a way to shrink the accelerator down to a size that will fit neatly on a Navy destroyer. (ANI)