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Posted on March 31, 2009
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from Consumer Energy Report (who?)

NIF’s 192 laser beams, housed in a ten-story building the size of three football fields, travel a long path, about 1,000 feet, from their birth at one of the two master oscillators to the center of the target chamber. As the beams move through NIF’s amplifiers, their energy increases exponentially. From beginning to end, the beams’ total energy grows from one-billionth of a joule (a joule is the energy needed to lift a small apple one meter against the Earth’s gravity) to four million joules, a factor of more than a quadrillion – and it all happens in less than 25 billionths of a second.

Each master oscillator generates a very small, low-energy laser pulse. The pulse may range from 100 trillionths to 25 billionths of a second long, and has a specific temporal shape as requested by NIF experimenters.

The laser is expected to be used for a wide range of high-energy and high-density physics experiments, but its primary purpose is to assist government physicists in ensuring the reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons as they become older.

The Lawrence Livermore lab will be taking order of the world’s most powerful supercomputer –capable of performing at 20 petaflops (1 petaflop equals 1 thousand trillion floating-point operations per second), twenty times faster than the current record holder, and more powerful than all of the systems on the top 500 supercomputer list combined– currently being constructed by IBM under contract by the U.S. government, which will also be utilized to ensure the safety of the country’s nuclear weapons.

“We are well on our way to achieving what we set out to do – controlled, sustained nuclear fusion and energy gain for the first time ever in a laboratory setting,” said Director Moses.


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