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The National Ignition Facility (NIF) will be the world's largest laser when it is completed in 2003. The 192-beam facility, costing $1.2 billion, is Lawrence Livermore's largest construction project and permanent facility in its history. The goal is to achieve fusion energy break-even and gain for the first time in a laboratory while focusing on substantial cost savings on all parts of component design, placement, and use. This article discusses the progress of many of the laser technologies that combine to make the NIF laser feasible, including the optical pulse generation system, preamplifier modules, main amplifier modules, flashlamps, power conditioning system, Pockels cells, and deformable mirrors. Also discussed are the contributions of the Beamlet and Amplab experimental facilities.
One important area of work for Lawrence Livermore's Earth and Environmental Sciences Directorate is investigating the carbon cycle. Much of the carbon in our environment exists in the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas. By tracking carbon as it exchanges from the atmosphere to the terrestrial ecosystem and the oceans, climate scientists are attempting to understand how increased emissions of carbon, as a result of human activities, can perturb global climate. The Climate System Modeling Group, in collaboration with other Laboratory disciplines, investigates better mathematical approximations of physical processes; experiments with different applications of data sets such as past records, collected observations, and proxy indicators for climate-related events; and tests hypotheses on physical and biogeochemical processes.
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