Friday, March 11, 2011

The Quest For Laser Fusion At NIH

We have reports of more dramatic progress at the National Ignition Facility. The latest report indicated that they have achieved the necessary temperature and compression conditions inside the "hohlraum".

NIF first began testing the laser beams last year and now two groups at Lawrence Livermore have shown that they can obtain the desired conditions inside the hohlraum. They did this by using plastic spheres containing helium, rather than actual fuel pellets, since these were easier to analyse, and by combining their experimental measurements with computer simulations, the researchers found that the hohlraum converted nearly 90% of the laser energy into X-rays and that it heated up to some 3.6 million degrees Celsius. They also found that the sphere was compressed very uniformly, its diameter shrinking from around two millimetres to about a tenth of a millimetre.

It's quite a progress for something that has been up for only a year, and for a facility that is this complex.


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