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NIF Fires a Record 500-Terawatt Laser Shot
On July 5, 2012, the National Ignition Facility (NIF) team at Livermore conducted a record-breaking shot that delivered more than 500 trillion watts (terawatts) of peak power and 1.85 megajoules of ultraviolet laser light to a NIF target. That performance amounts to about 1,000 times more power than the U.S. generates at any one instant and about 100 times the energy routinely produced by other lasers operating today.

The shot validated the challenging performance specifications set for NIF in the late 1990s. Combining extreme levels of energy and peak power on a target is a critical requirement for achieving one of science’s grand challenges—igniting hydrogen fusion fuel in a laboratory setting and producing more energy than is supplied to the target.

In the July 5 test, 192 lasers fired within a few trillionths of a second of each other and hit a 2-millimeter-diameter target. (The preamplifiers shown below are the first step in increasing laser-beam energy.) The total energy generated by the beams was within 1 percent of the amount requested by shot managers. The beam-to-beam uniformity also had an accuracy of within 1 percent, making NIF not only the highest energy laser of its kind but also the most precise and reproducible. “NIF is becoming everything scientists planned when it was conceived over two decades ago,” says Edward Moses, principal associate director for NIF and Photon Science.

The giant laser routinely operates at unprecedented performance levels. The July 5 shot was the third experiment in which total energy on the target exceeded 1.8 megajoules. On July 3, scientists achieved the highest energy of any laser shot ever fired, with more than 1.89 megajoules delivered to the target at a peak power of 423 terawatts. A shot on March 15 set the stage for the historic experiment by delivering 1.8 megajoules for the first time with a peak power of 411 terawatts.

NIF is the only facility with the potential to duplicate the phenomena that occur in the heart of a modern nuclear device. It is thus a crucial tool for sustaining confidence in the nation’s weapons stockpile without a return to underground nuclear testing. NIF is also helping scientists better understand the universe by creating the same extreme states of matter that exist in the centers of planets, stars, and other celestial objects. In addition, it is laying the groundwork for future fusion energy power plants, which would provide an abundant, sustainable source of clean energy.
Contact: Breanna Bishop (925) 423-9802 (bishop33@llnl.gov).

Livermore Researchers Honored with Six R&D 100 Awards
Six technologies developed by teams of Livermore researchers and their collaborators received R&D 100 awards for their efforts in developing breakthrough technologies with important applications. The winning technologies in R&D Magazine’s annual competition are as follows:

• A photonic method called HVLAD (high-velocity laser-accelerated deposition) produces protective coatings that prevent corrosion, wear, and other modes of degradation in extreme environments.

• LEOPARD is a laser energy optimization system that precisely adjusts the radiant distribution, or intensity profile, from a laser beam to extract the maximum amount of energy from the amplifiers while preserving a high degree of reliability among the optical components.

• Plastic scintillators for neutron and gamma-ray detection offer efficient pulse-shape discrimination and can distinguish neutrons from gamma rays with equal or better resolution than is available with standard commercial liquid scintillators.

• The Snowflake power divertor, developed in collaboration with Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and the Center for Research in Plasma Physics in Switzerland, reduces the hot plasma exhaust generated in doughnut-shaped tokomaks and other magnetic fusion energy sources.

• The multiplexed photonic Doppler velocimeter (MPDV) is a portable optical velocimetry system developed by National Security Technologies, LLC, with assistance from Livermore.

• NanoSHIELD uses a laser-fusing process, developed in a collaboration led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to produce superhard coatings that can extend the life of cutting and boring tools by more than 20 percent.

The R&D 100 awards have long been a benchmark of excellence for a diverse range of industries from telecommunications and software development to high-energy physics, manufacturing, and biotechnology. Winning the prestigious award often gives a product the push it needs to succeed in the marketplace and helps industrial leaders, government laboratories, and academic institutions to gauge the potential for commercializing emerging technologies.

Since 1978, Lawrence Livermore has captured 143 R&D 100 awards. The October/November issue of S&TR will highlight the six winning inventions and the researchers who developed them.
Contact: Erik J. Stenehjem (925) 423-9353 (stenehjem1@llnl.gov).


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