The system at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility in California used 192 laser beams to deliver more than 500 trillion watts (500 terawatts or TW) of peak power and 1.85 megajoules (MJ) of ultraviolet laser light to its target.
Five hundred terawatts is 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time, and 1.85 megajoules of energy is about 100 times what any other laser regularly produces today, a Lawrence Livermore lab release said Thursday.
In the experiment, NIF's 192 lasers fired within a few trillionths of a second of each other onto a 2-millimeter-diameter target.
The achievement is a vital step toward achieving one of physics' grand challenges, igniting hydrogen fusion fuel in the laboratory and producing more energy than that supplied to the target, researchers said.
"NIF is becoming everything scientists planned when it was conceived over two decades ago," NIF Director Edward Moses said.
"It is fully operational, and scientists are taking important steps toward achieving ignition and providing experimental access to user communities for national security, basic science and the quest for clean fusion energy."