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StarDriver: A Flexible Laser Driver for Inertial Confinement Fusion and High Energy Density Physics

Abstract

We propose a novel method to minimize laser–plasma instabilities and improve laser–plasma coupling by the use of multi-beam laser architecture with a large system frequency bandwidth and many beamlets per unit solid angle. The StarDriver™, laser driver is constructed from 104 to 105 individual lasers, each delivering nominally 100 J in pulses of ~3–30 ns at a nominal wavelength of ~355 nm with better than 3–5 diffraction-limited performance. The beamlets are individually relatively narrowband to facilitate maximum laser performance, but the ensemble of beamlets span a wide frequency range. Currently available laser media enable Δω/ω ~ 2 % at 355 nm with the possibility of system bandwidths approaching 10 % in the future. The many beamlets of StarDriver™ provide optimal asymptotic smoothing for hydrodynamic instabilities (0–1 %), innovative focusing strategies including zooming, and the large bandwidth enables extremely rapid hydrodynamic smoothing times ~30 fs. The distribution of frequencies among the beamlets allows flexibility for fine control of the seeding of the Rayleigh–Taylor instability. The ultra-broad bandwidth combined with the large total k-spectrum of the laser drive in the plasma corona may enable complete suppression of the most problematic laser–plasma instabilities such as stimulated Brillouin backscatter, stimulated Raman scatter, cross-beam energy transfer, and the two plasmon decay instability. StarDriver™ offers potentially superior flexibility in laser drivers for inertial confinement fusion, enabling almost arbitrary sequencing of wavelength, polarization, focus, and fine control of the spatio-temporal properties of the drive in the corona. The highly modular strategy of StarDriver™ should enable an attractive development pathway as well as maximizing overall system efficiency.

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Eimerl, D., Campbell, E.M., Krupke, W.F. et al. StarDriver: A Flexible Laser Driver for Inertial Confinement Fusion and High Energy Density Physics. J Fusion Energ 33, 476–488 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10894-014-9697-2

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Keywords

  • Inertial confinement fusion
  • Inertial fusion energy
  • Nuclear fusion
  • Laser drivers
  • Ultrabroad bandwidth
  • High energy density physics
  • StarDriver
  • Instabilities