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NIF makes historic record-breaking laser shot

NIF preamplifier beam transport system

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) made an historic record-breaking laser shot on July 5. The NIF laser system of 192 beams delivered more than 500 trillion watts (terawatts or TW) of peak power and 1.85 megajoules (MJ) of ultraviolet laser light to its target. Five hundred terawatts is 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time, and 1.85 megajoules of energy is about 100 times what any other laser regularly produces today.

The shot validated NIF’s most challenging laser performance specifications set in the late 1990s when scientists were planning the world’s most energetic laser facility. Combining extreme levels of energy and peak power on a target in the NIF is a critical requirement for achieving one of physics’ grand challenges — igniting hydrogen fusion fuel in the laboratory and producing more energy than that supplied to the target.

In the historic test, NIF's 192 lasers fired within a few trillionths of a second of each other onto a 2-millimeter-diameter target. The total energy matched the amount requested by shot managers to within better than 1 percent. Additionally, the beam-to-beam uniformity was within 1 percent, making NIF not only the highest energy laser of its kind but the most precise and reproducible.

Read more about NIF's record-breaking laser shot.

About the photo:
A portion of the NIF preamplifier beam transport system. This system transports and resizes the laser beam prior to injection in the main laser. The system precisely controls the energy of each beamline as required for ignition experiments.