The Worlds Most Powerful Laser

Worlds Most Powerful Laser Scientists in the USA have just finished constructing the worlds most powerful Laser, aimed at recreating the conditions at the heart of the Sun. The goal of the experiment is to demenstrate the feasibility of Nuclear fusion, which could mean abundant clean energy.

The Experiment aims 192 Lasers at a tiny amount of Hydrogen fuel and if it works, will produce more energy than that required to initiate it. This would then mark the transition of Laser fusion from theory to engineering reality. This Fusion is seen by many to be the "Holy Grail" of energy sources as it can supply almost limitless clean energy. The practicalities of building an effective reactor however have eluded scientists for over half a century but the NIF believe they are finally reaching this goal.

The California based Facility (National Ignition Facility or NIF) is the biggest experimental science complex in the USA and has taken 12 years to build.

The Experiments are due to begin in June of this year however the first significant results are not expected until 2010 at the earliest.

How it Works

The Theory: Two forms of Hydrogen, Deuterium and Tritium are used, Deuterium is found in seawater and Tritium can be extracted from Lithium. When these isotopes are fused together at high temperatures (about 10 million celsius in the Sun or 100 million celsius here on earth), a small amount of mass is lost and an incredible amount of energy is released.

The Experiment: A small (pea sized) spherical capsule is filled with Deuterium and Tritium (150 micrograms).

The NIF Laser is set up pointing at the capsule and switched on to produce pulses for all of 20 billionths of a second (not very long).

During these Laser pulses the energy used amounts to 5 million million 100-watt light bulbs, or 500 trillion watts. All that power is focused on the capsules surface compressing the fuel to a density 100 times that of lead. The heat generated is more than 100 million degrees Celsius and under these conditions fusion should be generated.