The National Ignition Facility:
Ushering in a New Age for Science
“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”
Scientists have been working to achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion and energy gain in the laboratory for more than half a century. Ignition experiments at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) are now bringing that long-sought goal much closer to realization.
NIF's 192 giant lasers, housed in a ten-story building the size of three football fields, will deliver at least 60 times more energy than any previous laser system. NIF will focus more than one million joules of ultraviolet laser energy on a tiny target in the center of its target chamber—creating conditions similar to those that exist only in the cores of stars and giant planets and inside a nuclear weapon. The resulting fusion reaction will release many times more energy than the laser energy required to initiate the reaction.
Experiments conducted on NIF will make significant contributions to national and global security, could lead to practical fusion energy, and will help the nation maintain its leadership in basic science and technology. The project is a national collaboration among government, academia, and many industrial partners throughout the nation.
Programs in the NIF & Photon Science Directorate draw extensively on expertise from across LLNL, including the Physical and Life Sciences, Engineering,Computation, and Weapons and Complex Integration directorates. This goal is a scientific Grand Challenge that only a national laboratory such as Lawrence Livermore can accomplish.