Unique Facilities

Livermore’s research facilities include unique and state-of-the-art instrumentation, ranging from the world’s most energetic laser to some of the most powerful supercomputers in existence. Using these tools, researchers seek the answers to scientific questions with experiments conducted at the smallest length and shortest time scales currently achievable. Such experiments can probe the wonders of the universe, discover new relationships between cancer and human genetics, and capture carbon dioxide with microscopic capsules.  


Forensic Science Center

The Forensic Science Center (FSC) is one of the two U.S. laboratories to be internationally certified for identifying chemical warfare agents. Created in 1991, the FSC has established nationally recognized capabilities to support the Laboratory's national-security programs in chemical, nuclear, and biological counterterrorism. The FSC combines state-of-the-art science and technology with expertise in chemical, nuclear, biological, and high-explosives forensic science to support these national security missions.

The FSC also collaborates with federal agencies by applying forensic technology to help defeat terrorists or interdict dangerous materials. While serving the immediate, short-term needs in these areas, the center also conducts basic research in analytical science and instrument development, nuclear forensic analysis, and the synthesis of new molecular and tailored nanostructured materials.

Site 300

Site 300 supports Livermore’s nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship work by providing facilities used to assess the operation of non-nuclear weapon components through hydrodynamic testing. Located on 7,000 acres of land about 15 miles southeast of Livermore’s main facility, Site 300 is the locus of testing new conventional explosives destined for use as part of the nuclear stockpile, or in other systems.

Researchers use advanced diagnostics such as high-speed optics and x-ray radiography to compare the phases of the hydrodynamic flow from non-nuclear explosives experiments with computational data to assess the performance of components. Promising new explosives formulations developed and safety-tested in small quantities at the High Explosives Applications Facility in Livermore are brought to the Site 300 chemistry facilities to be scaled up into larger batches for further testing.

Explosives are processed here by pressing and machining the raw material into finished, rough shapes. Site 300 staff conduct precision inspection of machined parts, and assembly of explosives with other materials for possible testing at a firing. They also perform non-destructive testing related to the Stockpile Stewardship and other programs where established weapons components are subjected to vibration, shock, drop, and temperature changes to monitor and evaluate the components’ ability to survive a wide range of environments during an extended lifetime.

National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center

The National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC) is a support and resource center for emergency planning, real-time assessment, emergency response, and detailed studies of atmospheric releases of nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, and hazardous natural materials. NARAC provides tools and expertise to simulate and map the spread and impacts of hazardous materials accidentally or intentionally released into the atmosphere. NARAC plume predictions inform decisions on actions to protect the public and the environment.

NARAC’s operations center and expert staff are available on a 24/7 basis to respond to emergencies anywhere in the world. Since its founding in 1979, the center has responded to hundreds of alerts, accidents, and disasters; supported thousands of exercises; and conducted studies for emergency response preparedness. NARAC has been serving the nation by preparing for and responding to nuclear power plant and processing facility accidents (including Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima Dai-ichi), industrial chemical spills and fires, radiological exercises and incidents, planetary mission launches involving radioactive materials, and natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions.

As the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) plume modeling center for radiological/nuclear incidents, NARAC provides predictions and analyses for DOE/NNSA’s national operations center; regional, national, and international emergency response teams; and DOE sites across the country. In a typical year, the center fulfills 10,000 airborne-plume simulation requests for emergency preparedness, participates in 100 major emergency response exercises, and responds to 25 incidents. NARAC also maintains multiple websites for requesting and distributing plume predictions and sharing information during events.

Jupiter Laser Facility

The Jupiter Laser Facility (JLF) is a unique laser user facility for research in high-energy-density (HED) science. Its three diverse laser platforms offer researchers a wide range of capabilities to produce and explore states of matter under extreme conditions of high density, pressure, and temperature. The Facility offers users a high degree of experimental flexibility, and high laser shot rates, and it allows direct user operation of experiments. Three laser platforms are located at JLF: the Titan, Janus, and COMET lasers and their associated target chambers. Each laser provides different capabilities.

For example, Titan couples a few-hundred-joule short-pulse (subpicosecond) beam with a kilojoule-class long-pulse (nanosecond) beam derived from a neodymium-glass laser system. Janus is based on the same neodymium-glass laser system but configured for operation with two nanosecond kilojoule-class beams. COMET is a neodymium-glass laser system designed for generating laboratory x-ray beams.

Scientists use the unique capabilities of JLF to explore a range of phenomena such as the acceleration of charged particles, hydrodynamics, and radiation emission and absorption in hot dense plasmas, all of which are fundamental to understanding the behavior of materials at high energy densities.

National Ignition Facility

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 as much or more energy than the energy lost during the implosion. 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.

Livermore Computing Complex

The Livermore Computing Complex (LCC) harnesses the power of high-performance computing (HPC) through scalable, cost-effective, specialized environments from computers to buildings and facilities. Because computing is integral to most LLNL missions, LC must predict and develop the HPC advances necessary to meet user needs.

LLNL’s computing and simulation infrastructure spans several buildings with large computer rooms. The largest facility was designed specifically to house the landmark Purple and Blue Gene/L systems and their successors, which currently include Sequoia, Vulcan, and Zin, among others. This computer facility provides 48,000 ft2 and 30 MW of power for systems and peripherals, and additional power for the associated machine-cooling system—more than one acre of floor space devoted to computing. One of the most modern HPC facilities in the world, a world-class engineering and facilities staff maintains this building in collaboration with a 24/7 operations staff.

LC’s infrastructure exemplifies innovative engineering solutions for electrical, mechanical, and structural design. Its engineers designed and implemented state-of-the-art solutions to prepare the facility for Sequoia, which had unprecedented requirements for electrical power distribution, mechanical cooling infrastructure, and structural support for extremely heavy racks. LC is also committed to achieving energy efficiency and full life-cycle sustainability in its facilities. Since 2010, two LLNL computer buildings have been certified as “green” facilities by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

High Explosives Applications Facility

The High Explosives Applications Facility (HEAF) is a Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration Center of Excellence for the research, development, synthesis, formulation, and characterization of explosives. HEAF is a unique, world-class facility capable of executing the full breadth and depth of explosive and energetic material research and development. Research activities in HEAF support the development of new explosives through synthesis and formulation laboratories, explosives properties testing, additive manufacturing of explosives, advanced diagnostics development, diamond-anvil experiments for basic explosives properties research, a microdetonics laboratory for explosives studies at the micrometer scale, and multiple firing tanks for explosives testing at larger scales.

Since its inception in 1989, HEAF has provided a wide variety of developmental and experimental capabilities. It has seven large fully contained firing tanks for testing explosive quantities from less than 1 gram up to 10 kilograms (22 pounds). The facility also has a 100-mm propellant-driven gun capable of firing projectiles at up to 2,500 meters per second and a two-stage, light gas gun capable of firing projectiles at 5,500 meters per second. 

Our team of chemists, physicists, engineers, and technicians make major contributions in many areas of national security. The facility is a key contributor in the stockpile stewardship mission and ongoing life extension programs, assuring the safety, reliability, and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear weapons. It is a source of subject matter expertise in the development of conventional weapons and toolsets for the Department of Defense’s warfighters and law enforcement responders. HEAF scientists also apply their expertise to counterterrorism, studying ways to detect and defeat improvised explosive devices and counter the threat of homemade explosives. No other facility in the world supports such a multidisciplinary, multifaceted mission under one roof.

Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry

The Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (CAMS) uses unique and state-of-the-art instrumentation to perform ultrasensitive isotope ratio measurements and ion beam analysis that address a broad spectrum of scientific needs to meet the Laboratory’s missions.

Accelerator mass spectrometry is a sensitive technique for measuring isotope ratios such as carbon-14 relative to carbon-12 or -13. AMS and ion beam analytical techniques have diverse applications. Scientists use them to measure the age of archaeological artifacts, and to reconstruct ancient climates, and the seismology of ancient earthquakes (geochronology). These techniques are also useful for studying ground water hydrogeology, carbon-cycle dynamics, oceanic and atmospheric chemistry, and the bioavailability and metabolism of chemicals, toxic compounds, and nutrients. CAMS has assisted scientists in performing forensic reconstruction of radiation doses at Hiroshima and Chernobyl; detecting signatures of nuclear fuel reprocessing for nonproliferation; and making nuclear physics cross-section measurements and nuclear chemistry studies.

CAMS houses an HVEC 10 MV Model FN accelerator, the most productive in the world, producing 25,000 analyses a year for a suite of isotopes. The 1 MV AMS system is the principal analytical tool for biomedical carbon-14 research. The third instrument is an ion beam analysis system based around a NEC 5SDH-2 1.7-MV accelerator. This instrument is used for materials characterization, environmental and biomedical research, nuclear physics, and national security applications. Collectively, these instruments provide an unmatched set of accelerator-based analytical capabilities.