High Energy Density Laboratory Plasmas

NNSA’s Office of Inertial Confinement Fusion and DOE’s Office of Science established a joint program in HEDLP in 2008. Initially, this program was a combination of work that was funded as part of the NNSA’s Stewardship Science Academic Alliances Program in the research area of high energy density physics and the DOE Office of Science's HEDLP Program and Innovative Confinement Concepts Program.  

Steady advances in increasing the energy, power, and brightness of lasers and particle beams and advances in pulsed power systems have made possible the exploration of matter at extremely high energy density in the laboratory.  In particular, exciting new experimental regimes could be realized by fully exploiting the scientific capabilities of existing and planned DOE facilities, as well as the relevant Department of Defense and university facilities.  Progress in the exploration of extreme states of matter has also been facilitated by advances in computer simulation and diagnostic techniques.  Other countries, e.g., Japan, China and the European Union, also have active programs in high energy density sciences.

Several National Academies of Science reports have described the compelling scientific challenges and opportunities that exist across the field of high energy density physics (HEDP).  An interagency task force report has identified the following four research categories within the field of HEDP as critical: astrophysics, high energy density nuclear physics, high energy density laboratory plasmas (HEDLP), and ultra-fast, ultra-intense laser science.  The interagency report found that stewardship of HEDLP should be improved and recommended that the NNSA and DOE’s Office of Science establish a joint program in HEDLP.


MIT PhD students in the High-Energy-Density Physics Division of the MT Plasma Science and Fusion Center, posing with the MIT Linear Electrostatic Ion Accelerator (LEIA). The students have built this facility, and they use it in a wide range of HEDP diagnostic development activities (testing and calibrating various systems made for detection of charged particles and neutrons). They then use these diagnostics for experiments at the OMEGA Laser Facility and at the National Ignition Facility.