RAMPANT, occasionally rancorous, competition among scientists, institutions, and schools of thought mark much of scientific research today. Much less is heard about the genuine cooperation that abounds in the research community, particularly that between men and women from different research centers working toward a common goal.|
A telling illustration of close scientific collaboration is the long-standing relationship of laser experts at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) of the University of Rochester and at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Their common goal has been to harness the potential of the laser as a future energy source and as a tool for revealing the secrets of matter at extreme temperatures and pressures.
Involved in inertial confinement fusion (ICF) research since the late 1960s, LLE today operates the only fusion research program jointly supported by the federal government, state government, industry, utilities, and a university. The U.S. Department of Energy has designated LLE as the National Laser Users' Facility to enable academic institutions, industrial research establishments, and government laboratories to have access to its facilities.
Showcasing the Omega Laser
Sharing Improves Technologies and Reduces Cost
Omega Stands in for Nova|
When Nova was decommissioned in May 1999, Omega became the only facility in the nation doing laser fusion implosion experiments. Although it was designed to do direct-drive experiments, it is working well as a facility for Livermore's indirect-drive experiments.
The decision to close Nova and transfer experiments to Omega until NIF begins operation in 2002 was not made lightly. Livermore physicist Ted Perry notes that because Omega was designed as a direct-drive facility, it can use only about 40 of its 60 beams for the indirect-drive targets used on Nova and NIF.
"Omega had to demonstrate that it could do the experiments. It passed all the tests," says Perry, who credits the ingenuity of Livermore and Rochester scientists working together to optimize the facility for indirect drive.
Omega Contributes to Stockpile Stewardship
Omega after NIF|
Verdon says that Omega will continue to be an important facility to Livermore even after NIF begins operation. Lawrence Livermore will use Omega to scope out scientific ideas more easily and cheaply. High-power or high-energy experiments, however, will require NIF.
The strong LLE connection to NIF is evident in other areas. LLE optics experts are applying essential multilayer coatings to several NIF optical components, such as the polarizers that form part of the giant laser's optical switches and the deformable mirrors used to control beam quality.
Looking beyond NIF, Livermore and LLE researchers are collaborating on a proposal to develop a DOE "virtual laboratory" to design a diode-pumped solid-state laser for inertial fusion energy. The laser would fire some 10 times per second with 10 percent efficiency. A similar virtual laboratory for a heavy-ion laser facility was formed last year as a collaboration between Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
"The ICF program has worked synergistically. There is always pride in ownership, but there haven't been a lot of `not invented here' roadblocks," says Verdon.
"We compete," adds Powell, "but it's a healthy competition."
Key Words: diode-pumped solid-state laser, direct drive, flashlamp cooling, indirect drive, inertial confinement fusion (ICF), KDP (potassium dihydrogen phosphate) crystals, Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Ignition Facility (NIF), Nova laser, Omega laser, smoothing by spectral dispersion (SSD), spatial filters.
For further information contact Robert McCrory (716) 275-4973 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Charles Verdon (925) 423-4449 (email@example.com.