China is building a mega-laser that's so powerful it could literally tear space apart.
Physicists in Shanghai are constructing what they call a 'Station of Extreme Light', which could be operational as soon as 2023.
The end goal is to create a laser so powerful it can produce 100-petawatt laser pulses –that's 100 million billion watts.
For context, that's 10,000 times the power of all the world's electrical grids combined.
These ludicrously powerful pulses could be targeted at incredible precise spots measuring just three micrometers across – that's 2000 times less than the thickness of a standard pencil.
This means the researchers could achieve a laser intensity 10 trillion trillion times greater than the sunlight striking earth.
According to the Science journal, this laser would be so powerful it "could rip apart empty space".
The idea is to achieve a phenomenon known as "breaking the vacuum", whereby electrons are torn away from positrons (their antimatter counterparts) in the empty vacuum of space.
Right now, it's possible to convert matter into huge amounts of heat and light, as proved by nuclear weapons. But reversing the process is more difficult – although Chinese physicist Ruxin Li believes his laser could manage it.
"That would be very exciting. It would mean you could generate something from nothing," he explained.
The team has already created a less powerful version called the Shanghai Superintense Ultrafast Laser, which is capable of a 5.3-petawatt pulse.
If the new laser eventually becomes operational, it could give scientists a new way to accelerate particles for advanced physics research.
This story originally appeared in The Sun.