Target Fabrication

Technician Inspects a NIF Target
NIF targets are complicated engineering marvels in tiny packages.

Creating targets for NIF requires interplay among target designers, materials scientists, precision engineers, and a precision fabrication and assembly complex. The laser drives a target capsule inward at nearly a million miles an hour. Because the targets are subjected to extreme temperatures—greater than those in the Sun—and pressures—similar to those found in the core of Jupiter—during experiments, the targets must be designed, fabricated, and assembled with extreme precision and demanding materials requirements in a clean environment.

For example, components must be machined to within an accuracy of 1 micron (1 millionth of a meter). Many material structures and features can be no larger than 100 nanometers, which is just 1/1,000th the width of a human hair. And a capsule must have a smoothness tolerance approaching 1 nanometer—equivalent to removing all features on the Earth’s surface taller than 60 meters (about 200 feet). Each target is characterized using an array of specialized optical, x-ray and mechanical inspection systems.

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