Over the past fifteen years 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 1026–28 W/cm21026–28W/cm2 in the coming decade, much beyond the current and near future intensity regime 1023 W/cm2,1023W/cm2, taking advantage of the megajoule laser facilities. Such a laser at extreme high intensity could accelerate particles to frontiers of high energy, tera-electron-volt 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. Such a laser intensity may also be very beneficial to an alternative, more direct approach of fast ignition in laser fusion. We suggest a new possibility to explore this. © 2002 American Institute of Physics
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