Fusion Science and Technology / Volume 43 / Number 3 / May 2003 / Pages 420-427
Technical Paper / Lasers and Heavy-Ion Drivers
The National Ignition Facility (NIF), currently under construction at the University of California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is a stadium-sized facility containing a 192-beam, 1.8-MJ, 500-TW, 351-nm laser system and a 10-m-diam target chamber with room for nearly 100 experimental diagnostics. NIF is being built by the National Nuclear Security Administration and when completed will be the world's largest laser experimental system, providing a national center to study inertial confinement fusion and the physics of matter at extreme energy densities and pressures. NIF will provide 192 energetic laser beams that will compress small fusion targets to conditions where they will ignite and burn, liberating more energy than is required to initiate the fusion reactions. NIF experiments will allow the study of physical processes at temperatures approaching 100 million K and 100 billion times atmospheric pressure. These conditions exist naturally only in the interior of stars and in nuclear weapons explosions. In the course of designing the world's most energetic laser system, a number of significant technology breakthroughs have been achieved. Research is also underway to develop a shorter pulse capability on NIF for very high power and extreme electromagnetic field research and applications. We discuss here the technology challenges and solutions that have made NIF possible, along with enhancements to NIF's design that could lead to near-exawatt power levels.