The laser was only expected to reach 1.87 megajoules, but it became the first ultraviolet laser to break the 2 megajoule barrier after its beam was focused through one final lens.
Creating a laser blast that powerful -- with a foot-wide beam -- requires splitting a single beam into 48, then using mirrors to bounce those beams through 4 amplifiers, and then splitting and amplifying them again. The end result is 192 beams combining into a single, powerful shot.
The NIF plans to use the laser to compress a hydrogen fuel cell, creating a nuclear fusion reaction that generates more power than it takes to fire a laser. If successful, the project could lead to the development of a new fusion-based power source.
NIF scientists haven't yet announced when they plan to test the laser on an actual target.