Friday, May 22, 2009

NIF story

The National Ignition Facility is the latest in a series of large lasers (really, a large complex of lasers) developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Actually, "large" does not do justice to the size of this device. I've seen an earlier version, and that facility was huge. This is bigger.

BBC News has a very good article about it, including several informative embedded videos.

NIF, like what came before, was built to study nuclear fusion reactions in the laboratory that result when a pellet of hydrogen fuel is compressed by laser beams. Unlike what has been used before, NIF was originally planned to test a potential design for a fusion power reactor on a scale that allows study of the feasibility of engineering and building an actual power plant.

It is a slight exaggeration to compare this to the reactions that power the sun. The sun "burns" individual protons to heavier nuclei, so you can think of its fuel as being regular hydrogen gas. The reaction employed here, like in other fusion reactors, uses heavy isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) as fuel. These react more easily, and produce a large energy output.

I could write more - a lot more - but that will be it for today.

Reference Links:

No comments: