The National Ignition Facility (NIF), the world’s largest
and most powerful laser system for inertial confinement fusion (ICF) and for
studying high-energy-density (HED) science, is now operational and conducting
experiments at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Demonstration of ignition and
thermonuclear burn in the laboratory is a major NIF goal. NIF will achieve this
by concentrating the energy from its 192 beams into a mm3-sized
target and igniting a deuterium-tritium mix, liberating more energy than is
required to initiate the fusion reaction.
NIF’s ignition program is a national effort managed via
the National Ignition Campaign (NIC). The
NIC has two major goals: execution of DT ignition experiments starting in
FY2010 for the purpose of demonstrating ignition and developing a reliable,
repeatable ignition platform by the conclusion of the NIC at the end of FY2012.
The NIC will also develop the infrastructure and the processes required to
operate NIF as a national user facility. Achieving ignition at NIF will
demonstrate the scientific feasibility of ICF and will focus worldwide
attention on laser fusion as a viable energy option.
A laser fusion-based energy concept that builds on NIF
ignition, known as LIFE (Laser Inertial Fusion Engine), is currently under
development. LIFE is inherently safe and can provide a global carbon-free
energy generation solution in the 21st century. LIFE requires
development of advanced technologies such as high-repetition-rate (~10 Hz),
high-energy lasers; mass production of targets; and first-wall materials
capable of withstanding the high x-ray and neutron fluxes present in the fusion
environment. Progress on this to date has been promising and will be reviewed
in a forthcoming National Academy of Sciences/National Academy of Engineering
Study on inertial fusion energy.
The NIF extreme environment also provides a powerful
experimental platform for study of fundamental science, including the behavior
of matter at extreme temperatures, pressures and densities; astrophysics; and
others. For example, experiments planned for 2010 and beyond will provide new
insights into the makeup of planetary interiors and the hydrodynamic evolution
of supernovae in our universe.
The talk will discuss recent progress on NIF, NIC and the
role of NIF in future energy security and frontier science.
This work performed under the auspices of the U.S. Department of
Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract