NIF scientists set the controls for nuclear fusion

Joseph L. Flatley
J. Flatley|04.01.09

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NIF scientists set the controls for nuclear fusion

It looks like nuclear fusion is no longer just for precocious teenagers. Among the flurry of experiments going down worldwide, significant work will start rolling at the US National Ignition Facility sometime this June. Under construction for twelve years, the lab will focus 192 giant laser beams on two forms of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium. Combining these isotopes at high temperatures generates a colossal amount of energy, recreating conditions "at the heart of the sun." The goal is to find a way to achieve controlled, sustained nuclear fusion and energy gain in a lab. According to the director of the facility, Dr. Ed Moses, "When all NIF lasers are fired at full energy, they will deliver 1.8 megajoules of ultraviolet energy to the target." Lasting just a few nanoseconds, the system is capable of generation 500 trillion watts of power -- more than the peak electrical generating power of the entire United States. Significant results are expected sometime between 2010 and 2012.


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