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NIF pulse sets energy record

06 Jun 2003

It might be five years behind schedule, but the National Ignition Facility (NIF) says that it has set new world records for laser beam energy.

Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) have produced record energy from a single ultraviolet laser beam, say officials.

According to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), which hosts NIF, an ultraviolet beamline recently produced a 10.4kJ pulse. Prior to this, the first four beams in use at the facility generated a pulsed green source that produced 11kJ and an infrared beam generating 21kJ. All three achievements are said to set new records.

The energies produced are significant, as equivalent performance over the full 192-beam system will exceed the design requirement of 1.8MJ needed for inertial confinement fusion.

NIF’s associate director George Miller said: “We have met or exceeded all current required milestones established three years ago. We have now demonstrated on a per-beam basis the critical performance criteria of NIF.”

Completion of the full system is now expected in 2008. Initially, NIF was due to be finished this year. The final cost of the project is now expected to be USD3 billion, more than double the original budget.

The high-energy pulses, which were between 0.2 and 25 nanoseconds in length, were produced at 5 hour intervals. This should provide capacity for more than 700 shots per year in total. According to NIF, the beam uniformity is also of the required standard.

NIF will start to use the beams in experiments later this year while the rest of the facility is completed.

Michael Hatcher is technology editor of Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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