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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2018-06-13 13:05:47
    • Article ID: 695968

    NIF Experiments Blast Previous Record and Double Fusion Yield

    • This rendering of the inside of NIF’s target chamber shows the target positioner moving into place. Pulses from NIF’s high-powered lasers race through the facility at the speed of light, and arrive at the center of the target chamber within a few trillionths of a second of each other, aligned to the accuracy of the diameter of a human hair.

    An experimental campaign conducted at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) has achieved a total fusion neutron yield of 1.9e16 (1.9x1016) and 54 KJ of fusion energy output – double the previous record. Researchers in LLNL’s Inertial Confinement Fusion Program detail the results in a paper that will be published this week in Physical Review Letters.

    NIF is the world’s largest and most energetic laser, designed to perform experimental studies of fusion ignition and thermonuclear burn, the phenomenon that powers the sun, stars and modern nuclear weapons. As a key component of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Stockpile Stewardship Program, experiments fielded on NIF enable researchers to gain fundamental understanding of extreme temperatures, pressures and densities – knowledge that helps ensure the current and future nuclear stockpile is safe and reliable.

    The record-breaking experiments utilized a diamond capsule – a layer of ultra-thin high-density carbon containing the deuterium-tritium (DT) fusion fuel – seated inside a depleted uranium hohlraum. This approach allowed the researchers to greatly improve their control over the symmetry of the X-rays that drive the capsule, producing “rounder” and more symmetric implosions. 

    “These results represent significant progress,” said Sebastien Le Pape, lead author of the paper and lead experimenter for the campaign. “By controlling the uniformity of the implosion, we’ve improved the compression of the hot spot leading to unprecedented hot spot pressure and areal density,”

    In addition to increased yield, the experiments produced other critical results. For the first time, the hot spot pressure topped out at approximately 360 Gbar (360 billion atmospheres) – exceeding the pressure at the center of the sun. Further, these record yields mean there was a record addition of energy to the hot spot due to fusion alpha particles. By depositing their energy rather than escaping, the alpha particles further heat the fuel, increasing the rate of fusion reactions and thus producing more alpha particles. This leads to yield amplification, which in these experiments was almost a factor of 3. As the implosions are further improved, this yield amplification could eventually lead to fusion ignition.

    “Because of the extreme levels of compression that these implosions have achieved, we are now at the threshold of achieving a ‘burning plasma’ state, where alpha-particle deposition in the fusing plasma is the dominant source of heating in that plasma,” said Omar Hurricane, chief scientist for the ICF Program.

    “Each experiment we do unlocks important data that informs how we design and field future experiments,” added NIF Director Mark Herrmann. “These results represent a significant advancement in our knowledge and will enable our next steps in tackling the difficult scientific challenge of ignition.”

    In addition, the experiments achieved conditions that now enable access to a range of nuclear and astrophysical regimes. The density, temperature and pressure of the hot spot are the closest to conditions in the sun, and the neutron density is now applicable for nucleosynthesis studies, which have traditionally needed an intense, laboratory-based neutron source. The conditions also are relevant for studying fundamental nuclear weapons physics.

    Additional experiments have shown similar levels of performance, confirming the importance of this approach. Looking ahead, LLNL plans to advance their experiments by exploring increased capsule size, energy delivery on NIF and improvements to features such as the capsule fill tube. 

    “Every time we make progress, we can better understand what challenges lie ahead,” said Laura Berzak Hopkins, lead designer for the experiments. “Now, we’re in an exciting place where we understand our system a lot better than before, and we’ve been able to take that understanding and translate it into increased performance. I’m very excited about the progress we’ve been able to make, and where we can go next.”

    In addition to Le Pape, Hurricane and Berzak Hopkins, co-authors include Laurent Divol, Arthur Pak, Eduard Dewald, Suhas Bhandarkar, Laura Benedetti, Thomas Bunn, Juergen Biener, Daniel Casey, David Fittinghoff, Clement Goyon, Steven Haan, Robert Hatarik, Darwin Ho, Nobuhiko Izumi, Shahab Khan, Tammy Ma, Andrew Mackinnon, Andrew MacPhee, Brian MacGowan, Nathan Meezan, Jose Milovich, Marius Millot, Pierre Michel, Sabrina Nagel, Abbas Nikroo, Prav Patel, Joseph Ralph, Janes Ross, David Strozzi, Michael Stadermann, Charles Yeamans, Christopher Weber and Deborah Callahan of LLNL; Jay Crippen Martin Havre, Javier Jaquez and Neal Rice of General Atomics; Dana Edgell of the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics; Maria Gatu-Johnson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center; George Kyrala and Petr Volegov of Los Alamos National Laboratory; and Christoph Wild of Diamond Materials Gmbh.

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    Do Alpha Particle Condensates Exist in Oxygen Nuclei?

    Do Alpha Particle Condensates Exist in Oxygen Nuclei?

    Yes. Such condensates, analogous to those in carbon-12, in heavier nuclei could change how we describe certain elements.

    Not All Ions in Tokamaks Go with the Flow

    Not All Ions in Tokamaks Go with the Flow

    Spectroscopic measurements reveal that main ions flow much faster than impurities at the edge of fusion-relevant plasmas.

    Researchers watch molecules in a light-triggered catalyst ring 'like an ensemble of bells'

    Researchers watch molecules in a light-triggered catalyst ring 'like an ensemble of bells'

    An international team has used an X-ray laser at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to get an incredibly detailed look at what happens to the structure of a model photocatalyst when it absorbs light.

    Measuring the Impossible: X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy of Hydrogen and Helium

    Measuring the Impossible: X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy of Hydrogen and Helium

    The two most abundant elements in the universe, hydrogen and helium, were previously thought to be impossible to measure by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.

    New Model Sheds Light on Key Physics of Magnetic Islands that Can Halt Fusion Reactions

    New Model Sheds Light on Key Physics of Magnetic Islands that Can Halt Fusion Reactions

    Surprisingly, a magnetic island does not necessarily perturb the plasma current in a dangerous way and destroy fusion performance.

    Correlated Nucleons May Solve 35-Year-Old Mystery

    Correlated Nucleons May Solve 35-Year-Old Mystery

    A careful re-analysis of data taken at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has revealed a possible link between correlated protons and neutrons in the nucleus and a 35-year-old mystery. The data have led to the extraction of a universal function that describes the EMC Effect, the once-shocking discovery that quarks inside nuclei have lower average momenta than predicted, and supports an explanation for the effect. The study has been published in the journal Nature.

    Early "Fossils" Formed by Tectonics, not Life

    Early "Fossils" Formed by Tectonics, not Life

    The 3.7-billion-year-old structures were considered the first evidence for life on the planet; new evidence suggests differently.

    High-Energy X-Ray Bursts from Low-Energy Plasma

    High-Energy X-Ray Bursts from Low-Energy Plasma

    Scientists discover why solar flares produce X-rays; a few electrons avoid collisions and accelerate to produce a microsecond burst.

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    Taking Diamond Qubits for a Spin

    Scientists use implanted silicon ions and electricity to increase the spin time of quantum bits, moving closer to the tech needed for quantum networks.

    Story Tips From the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, February 18, 2019

    Story Tips From the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, February 18, 2019

    ORNL neutrons investigate novel carbon capture crystals; gleaning valuable Twitter data to quickly map power outages; ORNL's lightweight, heat-shielding graphite foam test yields positive results in fusion reactors; open source software scales up analysis of motor designs to run on supercomputers


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    DOE launches its first lithium-ion battery recycling R&D center: ReCell

    DOE launches its first lithium-ion battery recycling R&D center: ReCell

    The launch of the Energy Department's first lithium-ion battery recycling center, called the ReCell Center, will help the United States grow a globally competitive recycling industry and reduce our reliance on foreign sources of battery materials.

    James Wishart Awarded Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal

    James Wishart Awarded Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal

    James Wishart, a chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been awarded the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal by the Polish Radiation Research Society (PRRS). The award recognizes his distinguished achievements in the field of radiation chemistry and his long-lasting and productive interactions with Polish scientists.

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition

    Twenty-eight teams from 17 Bay Area high schools faced off Feb. 9 in the SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl, a series of fast-paced question-and-answer matches that test knowledge in biology, chemistry, physics, earth and space sciences, energy and math. The competition is hosted annually by the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

    UNLV Among 11 Teams Worldwide To Compete in 2020 Solar Decathlon

    UNLV Among 11 Teams Worldwide To Compete in 2020 Solar Decathlon

    Students to build sustainable home of healing for military veterans for U.S. Department of Energy contest; UNLV competed in 2013 and 2017.

    Three Brookhaven Scientists Named Highly Cited Researchers

    Three Brookhaven Scientists Named Highly Cited Researchers

    Three scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have been named to the 2018 Highly Cited Researchers List, which recognizes influential researchers whose work ranks in the top one percent of the world's most-cited scientific papers. Brookhaven's Radoslav Adzic, Mark Hybertsen, and Xiao-Qing Yang are among only 4,000 researchers from around the world whom achieved the distinction in 2018.

    New tools in transportation

    New tools in transportation

    A new version of the AFLEET Tool from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory calculates and compares the costs and environmental benefits of a broad range of alternative fuel technologies. Covering 18 fuel/vehicle technologies, AFLEET Online offers an easy-to-use web-based platform.

    Remote-Control Plasma Physics Experiment is Named One of Top Webcams of 2018

    Remote-Control Plasma Physics Experiment is Named One of Top Webcams of 2018

    EarthCam names remote-control experiment at PPPL one of 25 most interesting Webcams of 2018.

    Jefferson Lab Scientist Awarded Distinguished Lectureship

    Jefferson Lab Scientist Awarded Distinguished Lectureship

    Cynthia Keppel, leader of Jefferson Lab's Halls A&C, has been honored with the APS 2019 Distinguished Lectureship Award on the Applications of Physics.

    Journal Special Issues Honor Chemists Radoslav Adzic and Jan Hrbek

    Journal Special Issues Honor Chemists Radoslav Adzic and Jan Hrbek

    The Journal of the Electrochemical Society and Surface Science recognized the contributions of Brookhaven Lab chemists Radoslav Adzic and Jan Hrbek to electrocatalysis and catalysis.

    Argonne scientist elected as SAE Fellow

    Argonne scientist elected as SAE Fellow

    Scientist Michael Wang from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory was recently inducted as a Fellow of the professional engineering organization SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). The organization reserves this prestigious grade of membership for thosewho have made significant contributions to mobility technology and have demonstrated leadership in their field.


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    Do Alpha Particle Condensates Exist in Oxygen Nuclei?

    Do Alpha Particle Condensates Exist in Oxygen Nuclei?

    Yes. Such condensates, analogous to those in carbon-12, in heavier nuclei could change how we describe certain elements.

    Not All Ions in Tokamaks Go with the Flow

    Not All Ions in Tokamaks Go with the Flow

    Spectroscopic measurements reveal that main ions flow much faster than impurities at the edge of fusion-relevant plasmas.

    Measuring the Impossible: X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy of Hydrogen and Helium

    Measuring the Impossible: X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy of Hydrogen and Helium

    The two most abundant elements in the universe, hydrogen and helium, were previously thought to be impossible to measure by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.

    New Model Sheds Light on Key Physics of Magnetic Islands that Can Halt Fusion Reactions

    New Model Sheds Light on Key Physics of Magnetic Islands that Can Halt Fusion Reactions

    Surprisingly, a magnetic island does not necessarily perturb the plasma current in a dangerous way and destroy fusion performance.

    Early "Fossils" Formed by Tectonics, not Life

    Early "Fossils" Formed by Tectonics, not Life

    The 3.7-billion-year-old structures were considered the first evidence for life on the planet; new evidence suggests differently.

    High-Energy X-Ray Bursts from Low-Energy Plasma

    High-Energy X-Ray Bursts from Low-Energy Plasma

    Scientists discover why solar flares produce X-rays; a few electrons avoid collisions and accelerate to produce a microsecond burst.

    Taking Diamond Qubits for a Spin

    Taking Diamond Qubits for a Spin

    Scientists use implanted silicon ions and electricity to increase the spin time of quantum bits, moving closer to the tech needed for quantum networks.

    Newly Discovered Design Rules Lead to Better Fuel Cell Catalyst

    Newly Discovered Design Rules Lead to Better Fuel Cell Catalyst

    Optimized oxides made from common metals use less energy and show the potential of new design approach.

    Too Close for Comfort: Nanoparticles Need Some Space to Transfer Energy

    Too Close for Comfort: Nanoparticles Need Some Space to Transfer Energy

    Particle crowding interferes with moving energy efficiently along promising molecular chains.

    Atomic Snapshots of Photosynthesis

    Atomic Snapshots of Photosynthesis

    Scientists catch details with atomic resolution, potentially helping design systems to use sunlight and water to produce fuels.


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