The National Ignition Facility (NIF) is the world’s largest and most energetic laser facility. The Facility’s 40,000 optics guide and focus 192 laser beams onto targets the size of a pencil eraser. Researchers at NIF conduct experiments in high-energy-density science (HED). HED science at NIF, which is funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration, contributes to Livermore’s stockpile stewardship mission. The Facility achieves temperatures and pressures similar to those of the interior of stars and giant planets as well as nuclear explosions (more than 100 million degrees and more than 100 billion times the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere), providing data that allow Livermore researchers to simulate nuclear explosions without actual testing, and verify that the nuclear weapons stockpile is safe, secure, and reliable.
One of NIF’s goals is to achieve nuclear fusion ignition through inertial confinement. Fusion “ignition” occurs when a controlled fusion reaction generates more energy than is needed to start the reaction. Harnessing fusion, the process that makes the stars burn bright in the universe, could lead to a new source of clean energy on earth.
Scientists also use NIF’s ability to reach HED conditions to conduct discovery science that elucidates the physics of stellar and planetary interiors, the behavior of matter at extreme conditions, and astrophysical phenomena such as supernovae and black holes—NIF helps scientists satisfy their extreme curiosity about these natural marvels. NIF is a national user facility with more than 3,000 university, laboratory, and corporate partners from all over the nation and the globe.
The National Ignition Facility is the world’s largest and most energetic laser facility