Astrophysics and Space Science

, Volume 336, Issue 1, pp 3–7 | Cite as

The National Ignition Facility: an experimental platform for studying behavior of matter under extreme conditions

Open Access
Original Article


The National Ignition Facility (NIF), a 192-beam Nd-glass laser facility capable of producing 1.8 MJ and 500 TW of ultraviolet light, is now operational at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). As the world’s largest and most energetic laser system, NIF serves as the national center for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and National Nuclear Security Administration to achieve thermonuclear burn in the laboratory and to explore the behavior of matter at extreme temperatures and energy densities. By concentrating the energy from all of its 192 extremely energetic laser beams into a mm3-sized target, NIF can reach the conditions required to initiate fusion reactions. NIF can also provide access to extreme scientific environments: temperatures about 100 million K, densities of 1,000 g/cm3, and pressures 100 billion times atmospheric pressure. These conditions have never been created before in a laboratory and exist naturally only in interiors of the planetary and stellar environments as well as in nuclear weapons.

Since August 2009, the NIF team has been conducting experiments in support of the National Ignition Campaign (NIC)—a partnership among LLNL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, General Atomics, the University of Rochester, Sandia National Laboratories, as well as a number of universities and international collaborators. The results from these initial experiments show promise for the relatively near-term achievement of ignition. Capsule implosion experiments at energies up to 1.2 MJ have demonstrated laser energetics, radiation temperatures, and symmetry control that scale to ignition conditions. Of particular importance is the demonstration of peak hohlraum temperatures near 300 eV with overall backscatter less than 10%. Cryogenic target capability and additional diagnostics are being installed in preparation for layered target deuterium-tritium implosions to be conducted later in 2010. Important national security and basic science experiments have also been conducted on NIF. This paper describes the unprecedented experimental capabilities of NIF and the results achieved so far on the path toward ignition, for stockpile stewardship, and the beginning of frontier science experiments. The paper will also address our plans to transition NIF to a national user facility, providing access to NIF for researchers from the DOE laboratories, as well as the national and international academic and fusion energy communities.


National Ignition Facility National Ignition Campaign Inertial fusion energy Inertial confinement fusion High energy density science Laser inertial fusion energy 


  1. Lindl, J.D.: Inertial Confinement Fusion: The Quest for Ignition and Energy Gain Using Indirect Drive. AIP, New York (1998) Google Scholar
  2. Lindl, J.D., Amendt, P., Berger, R.L., Glendinning, S.G., Glenzer, S.H., Haan, S.W., Kauffman, R.L., Landen, O.L., Suter, L.J.: The physics basis for ignition using indirect drive targets on the NIF. Phys. Plasmas 11(2), 339–491 (2004) ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. LLNL report: National Ignition Campaign Execution Plan, UCRL-AR-213718, NIF-0111975-AA (2005) Google Scholar
  4. LLNL web site: (2009)
  5. Meezan, N.B., Atherton, L.J., Callahan, D.A., Dewald, E.L., Dixit, S., Dzenitis, E.G., Edwards, M.J., Haynam, C.A., Hinkel, D.E., Jones, O.S., Landen, O., London, R.A., Michel, P.A., Moody, J.D., Milovich, J.L., Schneider, M.B., Thomas, C.A., Town, R.P.J., Warrick, A.L., Weber, S.V., Widmann, K., Glenzer, S.H., Suter, L.J., MacGowan, B.J., Kline, J.L., Kyrala, G.A., Nikroo, A.: National Ignition Campaign hohlraum energetics. Phys. Plasmas 17, 056304 (2010) ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Michel, P., Divol, L., Williams, E.A., Weber, S., Thomas, C.A., Callahan, D.A., Haan, S.W., Salmonson, J.D., Dixit, S., Hinkel, D.E., Edwards, M.J., MacGowan, B.J., Lindl, J.D., Glenzer, S.H., Suter, L.J.: Tuning the implosion symmetry of ICF targets via controlled crossed-beam energy transfer. Phys. Rev. Lett. 102, 025004 (2009a) ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Michel, P., Divol, L., Williams, E.A., Thomas, C.A., Callahan, D.A., Weber, S., Haan, S.W., Salmonson, J.D., Meezan, N.B., Landen, O.L., Dixit, S., Hinkel, D.E., Edwards, M.J., MacGowan, B.J., Lindl, J.D., Glenzer, S.H., Suter, L.J.: Energy transfer between laser beams crossing in ignition hohlraums. Phys. Plasmas 16, 042702 (2009b) ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Moses, E.I.: Overview of the National Ignition Facility. Fus. Sci. Technol. 54(2), 361–366 (2008a) Google Scholar
  9. Moses, E.I.: Multi-megajoule NIF: Ushering in a new era in high energy density science. Proc. SPIE Int. Soc. Opt. Eng. 7005, 70050F (2008b) Google Scholar
  10. Moses, E.I.: Ignition on the National Ignition Facility. J. Phys., Conf. Ser. 112(1), 012003 (2008c) ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Moses, E.I.: The National Ignition Facility (NIF): a path to fusion energy. Energy Convers. Manag. 49(7), 1795–1802 (2008d) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Moses, E.I., Meier, W.R.: The National Ignition Facility and the golden age of high energy density science. IEEE Trans. Plasma Sci. 36(3), 802–808 (2008) ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Ignition Facility and Photon ScienceLawrence Livermore National LaboratoryLivermoreUSA

Personalised recommendations