Saturday, May 15, 2010

The National Ignition Facility: Ushering in a New Age for Science

Hot Hohlraum
“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”
—John Dewey
Scientists have been working to achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion and energy gain in the laboratory for more than half a century. When the National Ignition Facility (NIF) begins ignition experiments at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in 2010, that long-sought goal will be much closer to realization.
NIF's 192 giant lasers, housed in a ten-story building the size of three football fields, will deliver at least 60 times more energy than any previous laser system. When all of its beams are fully operational, NIF will focus nearly two million joules of ultraviolet laser energy on a tiny target in the center of its target chamber – creating conditions similar to those that exist only in the cores of stars and giant planets and inside a nuclear weapon. The resulting fusion reaction will release many times more energy than the laser energy required to initiate the reaction.
Experiments conducted on NIF will make significant contributions to national and global security, could lead to practical fusion energy, and will help the nation maintain its leadership in basic science and technology. The project is a national collaboration among government, industry and academia and many industrial partners throughout the nation.
Programs in the NIF & Photon Science Directorate draw extensively on expertise from across LLNL, including the Physical and Life Sciences, Engineering, Computation and Weapons and Complex Integration directorates. This goal is a scientific Grand Challenge that only a national laboratory such as Lawrence Livermore can accomplish.

More Information

Much more information on the NIF & Photon Science Directorate's missions and programs is available on this Website. Here are some links to explore:
  • The Seven Wonders of NIF – How NIF scientists, engineers and technicians overcame a series of daunting technical challenges to bring NIF to the verge of success.
  • How NIF Works – What goes into creating the world's highest-energy laser system.
  • How to Make a Star – Achieving thermonuclear burn in the laboratory.
  • Stockpile Stewardship – Helping protect national security by ensuring that the nation's nuclear weapons are safe, secure and reliable.
  • Inertial Fusion Energy – Exploring new pathways to safe, clean, limitless energy.
  • Photon Science & Applications – Developing advanced high-power, high-intensity laser technology and applications.
  • Laboratory Astrophysics – Providing new tools to study the cosmos.
  • Plasma Physics – Understanding the behavior of turbulent plasmas, the "fourth state of matter."
  • People – Get to know some of the people who make NIF and Photon Science possible.
  • Education – Learn more about lasers and fusion energy.
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