The National Ignition Facility

At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center about 50 miles east of San Francisco, scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) are trying to achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion -- in other words, to create a miniature star on Earth. The core of the NIF is a house-sized spherical chamber aiming 192 massive lasers at a tiny target. One recent laser experiment focused nearly 2 megajoules (the energy consumed by 20,000 100-watt light bulbs in one second) of light energy onto a millimeter-sized sphere of deuterium and tritium in a 16-nanosecond pulse. The resulting energetic output, while far short of being a self-sustaining reaction, set a record for energy return, and has scientists hopeful as they fine-tune the targeting, material, and performance of the instruments. The facility itself bristles with machinery and instruments, impressing the producers of the movie Star Trek: Into Darkness, who used it as a film set for the warp core of the starship Enterprise.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Ameer Alhalbi / AFP / Getty

    In Syria: More Than Five Years of War

    For more than five years now, Syrians have endured the loss and hardship caused by a protracted civil war.

  • João Castellano

    The Other Beaches of Brazil

    While wealthier sunbathers may opt for Ipanema and Copacabana, there exists another coastline checkered with picnics of roasted chicken and “farofa.”

  • Evaristo Sa / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: 5/21-5/27

    Estonia’s triplet Olympic Marathoners, protests in France, U.S. special operations forces in Syria, the National Spelling Bee in Maryland, a thousand Indian Runner ducks in a South African vineyard, and much more.

  • Jean Chung / Getty

    Hiroshima Today

    Images and portraits from present-day Hiroshima

Join the Discussion