DOE News
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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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    How Animals Use Their Tails to Swish and Swat Away Insects

    A new study shows how animals use their tails to keep mosquitoes at bay by combining a swish that blows away most of the biting bugs and a swat that kills the ones that get through.

    Missing gamma-ray blobs shed new light on dark matter, cosmic magnetism

    Scientists, including researchers from the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, have compiled the most detailed catalog of such blobs using eight years of data collected with the Large Area Telescope (LAT) on NASA's Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. The blobs, including 19 gamma-ray sources that weren't known to be extended before, provide crucial information on how stars are born, how they die, and how galaxies spew out matter trillions of miles into space.

    Applying Auto Industry's Fuel-Efficiency Standards to Agriculture Could Net Billions in Corn Sector, Researchers Conclude

    Adopting benchmarks similar to the fuel-efficiency standards used by the auto industry in the production of fertilizer could yield $5-8 billion in economic benefits for the U.S. corn sector alone, researchers have concluded in a new analysis.

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices

    A paper published in Nature Communications by Sufei Shi, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer, increases our understanding of how light interacts with atomically thin semiconductors and creates unique excitonic complex particles, multiple electrons, and holes strongly bound together.

    Next-Gen Ultrafast Optical Fiber-Based Electron Gun to Reveal Atomic Motions During Transition State

    A new method enables researchers to directly observe and capture atomic motions at surfaces and interfaces in real time.

    Intense Microwave Pulse Ionizes Its Own Channel Through Plasma

    Researchers experimentally observed the ionization-induced channeling of an intense microwave beam propagating through a neutral gas (>103 Pa).

    Ancient Pigment Can Boost Energy Efficiency

    Egyptian blue, derived from calcium copper silicate, was routinely used on ancient depictions of gods and royalty. Previous studies have shown that when Egyptian blue absorbs visible light, it then emits light in the near-infrared range. Now a team led by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has confirmed the pigment's fluorescence can be 10 times stronger than previously thought.

    Expanding Fungal Diversity, One Cell at a Time

    Reported October 8, 2018, in Nature Microbiology, a team led by U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute researchers developed a pipeline to generate genomes from single cells of uncultivated fungi. The approach was tested on several uncultivated species representing early diverging fungi.

    Columbia Engineers Build Smallest Integrated Kerr Frequency Comb Generator

    Optical frequency combs can enable ultrafast processes in physics, biology, and chemistry, as well as improve communication and navigation, medical testing, and security. Columbia Engineers have built a Kerr frequency comb generator that, for the first time, integrates the laser with the microresonator, significantly shrinking the system's size and power requirements. They no longer need to connect separate devices using fiber--they can now integrate it all on compact and energy efficient photonic chips.

    Scientists Present New Clues to Cut Through the Mystery of Titan's Atmospheric Haze

    Experiments at Berkeley Lab helped scientists zero in on a low-temperature chemical mechanism that may help to explain the complex molecular compounds that make up the nitrogen-rich haze layer surrounding Titan, Saturn's largest moon.


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    Prototype Solar Energy, Battery Systems to Fuel Commercialization

    Designing, building and testing prototype systems that show how renewable energy can power devices, such as a weather and soil sensor station, can help bridge the gap between basic science research and commercialization.

    Argonne to Advance High Performance Computing in Manufacturing

    Argonne awarded funding to partner with Industry to advance the use of high performance computing in manufacturing.

    "Invisible Glass" Wins 2018 Create the Future Design Contest Grand Prize

    Scientists from the Center for Functional Nanomaterials developed a technique for making nonreflecting glass, silicon, and plastic surfaces.

    Missouri S&T researchers win multimillion dollar grant to build fast-charging stations for electric cars

    Researchers from Missouri S&T and three private companies will combine their expertise to create charging stations for electric vehicles that could charge a car in less than 10 minutes - matching the time it takes to fill up a conventional vehicle with gasoline."The big problem with electric vehicles is range, and it's not so much range as range anxiety.

    Making batteries store more energy, last longer

    A new solid polymer electrolyte may help make cell phone batteries store more energy and last longer.

    Three Brookhaven Lab Scientists Named Fellows of American Physical Society

    The American Physical Society (APS), the world's largest physics organization, has elected three scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory as 2018 APS fellows.

    Southern Research first to win accreditation under ISO 14034

    Southern Research has become the first organization in the United States to earn accreditation under ISO 14034, a new international standard for evaluating and verifying environmental technologies that was recently adopted by the American National Standards Institute.

    Kawtar Hafidi to head Physical Sciences and Engineering directorate at Argonne

    Physicist Kawtar Hafidi has been appointed Associate Laboratory Director, Physical Sciences and Engineering at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

    Argonne researchers honored by Energy Secretary's awards program

    A select group of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory was recently recognized for their contributions to infrastructure security and nuclear nonproliferation at the Secretary's Honor Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on August 29.

    PPPL's Sam Cohen earns award at meeting of U.S. government-funded laboratories hosted by PPPL

    PPPL physicist Sam Cohen and a local company win a Federal Laboratory Consortium award for a rocket propulsion technology.


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    How to Make Soot and Stardust

    Scientists unlock mystery that could help reduce emissions of fine particles from combustion engines and other sources.

    Breaking the Symmetry Between Fundamental Forces

    Scientists improve our understanding of the relationship between fundamental forces by re-creating the earliest moments of the universe.

    Water Plays Unexpected Role in Forming Minerals

    Water molecules line up tiny particles to attach and form minerals; understanding how this happens impacts energy extraction and storage along with waste disposal.

    Heavy Particles Get Caught Up in the Flow

    First direct measurement show how heavy particles containing a charm quark get caught up in the flow of early universe particle soup.

    Seeing Between the Atoms

    New detector enables electron microscope imaging at record-breaking resolution.

    Scaling Up Single-Crystal Graphene

    New method can make films of atomically thin carbon that are over a foot long.

    Discovered: Optimal Magnetic Fields Suppress Instabilities in Tokamak Plasmas

    U.S. and Korean scientists show how to find and use beneficial 3-D field perturbations to stabilize dangerous edge-localized modes in plasma.

    New Electron Glasses Sharpen Our View of Atomic-Scale Features

    A new approach to atom probe tomography promises more precise and accurate measurements vital to semiconductors used in computers, lasers, detectors, and more.

    Getting an Up-Close, 3-D View of Gold Nanostars

    Scientists can now measure 3-D structures of tiny particles with properties that hold promise for advanced sensors and diagnostics.

    Small, Short-Lived Drops of Early Universe Matter

    Particle flow patterns suggest even small-scale collisions create drops of early universe quark-gluon plasma.


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