Planning the Experiment

Scientists use sophisticated computer models and the results of previous research to design an experiment.

Designing the Target

Designers and engineers develop the target based on the experiment’s requirements.

Building the Target

Technicians fabricate, assemble, and measure the components to millionth-of-a-meter tolerances.

Viewing the Target

NIF targets are designed to provide diagnostics with line-of-sight access to the capsule suspended inside the hohlraum.

Inserting the Target

The target is mounted on an inserter and placed in the center of the Target Chamber; many targets are cooled to just a few degrees above absolute zero.

Positioning the Diagnostics

Diagnostics are inserted into the 10-meter-diameter Target Chamber to capture the results of the experiment. More than 100 different diagnostics are available to record every aspect of NIF experiments.

Shaping the Laser Pulse

The temporal shape, wavelength, and timing of the laser pulse are precisely set in the Master Oscillator Room. Pulses of a few billionths of a joule are amplified several billion times before being injected into NIF’s main laser amplifiers.

Preparing for the Shot

Control Room operators remotely align the laser beams and diagnostics and perform the final shot countdown.

Energizing the Lasers

When the shot is fired, the NIF capacitor bays deliver 400 megajoules of stored electrical energy to the main laser’s 7,680 flashlamps.

Boosting the Laser Power

In the laser bays, the amplifiers increase the one-joule input from the injection laser to nearly 4 million joules of infrared laser light.

Focusing on the Target

In the Target Bay, the final optics assemblies convert the infrared light to about 2 million joules of high-energy ultraviolet light and direct the laser beams to the target at the center of the Target Chamber.

Triggering Nuclear Fusion

NIF's lasers compress the fusion fuel to pressures that exceed 100 billion times Earth's atmosphere and temperatures of more than 100 million Kelvin (180 million degrees Fahrenheit), forcing hydrogen atoms to fuse in a controlled thermonuclear reaction.

Analyzing the Data

Data from NIF experiments (right) are analyzed on LLNL supercomputers and compared with model predictions (left), resulting in improved computer models and new experimental designs.