High-Energy-Density Science

Livermore is an international leader in high-energy-density (HED) science, which studies matter at conditions of extreme temperature or pressure or under the influence of a strong force such as an intense laser, particle beam, or radiation. In pursuit of its national security missions, Livermore has continually advanced HED science starting in the 1950s with the design of nuclear weapons and extending to today’s pursuit of fusion energy and the interpretation of astrophysical observations ranging from black holes to the birth of galaxies.

The Laboratory is home to the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the world’s premier HED experimental facility and a cornerstone of the Stockpile Stewardship Program. NIF enables the creation and characterization of matter under the most extreme conditions of temperature and pressure achievable in the laboratory, recreating conditions at the center of Earth, giant planets, and the Sun. The smaller Jupiter Laser Facility (JLF) hosts a community of more than 300 users, including more than 100 students, and provides access to unique HED capabilities.

A high priority is developing the science to predict, control, and exploit burning fusion plasmas, which are particularly important to stockpile stewardship as well as to the prospects of fusion energy. Maintaining the nuclear weapons stockpile in the absence of nuclear testing require HED models of extraordinary fidelity that are made possible by Livermore’s suite of exceptionally powerful supercomputers.

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