The idea of "melting" ice with a laser is not new in itself. The "cut" of the ice layer will greatly facilitate the way the ship, and as a consequence, accelerate its progress. However, from a technical point of view, it is extremely difficult to create and build a working ship laser with a power sufficient to "cut" ice 1.5-2 meters thick, even with all modern technologies.
The "Schwabe" laser installation (the Russian holding company "Schwabe") is a multifunctional device. Astrophysica NGO, currently part of the Schwabe holding company, has been engaged in dual-purpose lasers for a very long time. This is one of the most authoritative organizations in the country engaged in laser technologies. With its help it is possible not only to cut ice floes, but also to melt ice on offshore structures, and in the mode of maximum power - even to cut metal structures. In fact, such a device can be used as a weapon. Rescuers also hope that the laser is useful in conducting flood control measures. The head of the regional agency of the State Fire Service and Civil Defense Alexander Uvarov said: "New technologies expand our capabilities. And if we try to carry out some of the tests with the laser this winter, then this will be a tangible step forward for us and for the developers."
The main problem of laser technology, for all its future, remains the power supply required for the operation of the installation. In and of itself laser projects have been tested more than once - both the US and Russia have at their disposal a huge technological reserve in this direction. The Americans developed the YAL-1, which they wanted to shoot down combat blocks of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and several versions of ship lasers to "blind" the surveillance equipment. The Soviet Union gave the world "Compression" and the shipborne laser complex "Aquilon", and in Russia there is a flying laser A-60. However, all these projects are designed for highly specialized work and the disabling of surveillance equipment, and not for cutting ice on an industrial scale.
owever, the first step toward the creation of a ship laser has already been done - the crew of the Dixon diesel icebreaker and a special research team tested a 30 kilowatt ship laser, whose main task was to facilitate the icebreaker's movement in the Arctic latitudes. The development of a unique device, as in the case of many similar projects, is carried out by specialists of the NGO Astrophysics, with the support of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of St. Petersburg.
Experts explain that in the case of the new development there is no question of experiments on the destruction of objects - the immediate goal: to ensure the reliable operation of the facility facilitating navigation in Arctic ice conditions.
"The task is not to knock something down or destroy it. This is the maximum ease of navigation in the northern regions. In addition, it is necessary to experimentally test theoretical calculations, create an installation, measure energy consumption and many other parameters to calculate. For the first stage, this is already very much, "the scientist-physicist, candidate of technical sciences Victor Gromov, explained in an interview with the Zvezda television channel.
Contrary to popular belief, the ship's laser will not cut a half or two meters of ice "from top to bottom" - the main task of the installation will be to perform "cuts" to ensure the safest passage of the area by the ship. Such a laser installation, according to experts, will significantly increase the ice class of the vessel and allow the ships to move in areas not accessible to conventional icebreakers.
It may turn out that a 30-kilowatt laser is simply not enough to effectively cut ice. The creators say that in the installation there will be a system capable of detecting a crack or a point of tension in the ice cake and focusing the laser on them. That is, you do not have to cut all the ice completely, only make cuts, after which the icebreaker will be able to split the ice in front of him much faster.
The ultimate goal, to which Russian scientists are moving, should be the creation of a ship laser installation with a capacity of 200 kilowatts. However, the creation of a small-sized laser installation will require not only to reconsider most design principles, but also to think about energy consumption. The thing is that at the first stages of a 200-kilowatt laser, only nuclear icebreakers can be used for their intended purpose, the power plant of which can generate as much energy as is required for long-term operation.
Despite the fact that the experiment with a ship laser on the Dixon icebreaker has not yet taken place, the technology has great prospects. In the event that scientists can create a mobile high-performance laser installation and work out the power supply process, it is possible to obtain a means of solving not only the problems of sea traffic along the northern sea route. Icebreakers equipped with a laser installation will be able to interact with Arctic warships, quickly moving to the necessary areas - as a result, the zone of combat patrolling will increase and the response time to any threats in the Arctic region will decrease.
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