Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory



The power conditioning system (PCS) drives the 7,680 flashlamps located in the NIF laser's main and power amplifiers. Deployed throughout four 1,150-square-meter (12,500-square-foot) capacitor bays, the power conditioning system stores approximately 400 megajoules (million joules) of electrical energy for each NIF shot.

Energy is stored over a period of 60 seconds in banks of high-voltage capacitors before being released in a 400-microsecond burst. Peak current for the system exceeds 100 million amperes and the peak power exceeds one terawatt (one trillion watts)—more power than the entire United States uses in that same fraction of a second. Pulses are delivered to the flashlamps via more than 150 kilometers (100 miles) of high-voltage cable.

The system comprises 192 modules, one for each laser beam. In addition to a main energy storage circuit, each module contains a pre-ionization/lamp check circuit designed to prepare the flashlamps for the main discharge as well as provide information on the health of the system's flashlamps following each main discharge. Individual modules weigh more than 11 tons and are more than three meters tall, four meters long, and three meters deep.

All modules are controlled by a single operator who interfaces with individual modules using computer controls. Every module is equipped with an embedded controller that controls components inside the module and communicates to the supervisory control system over high-speed Ethernet connections.