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 ←/→.

Ads are being blocked

For us to continue writing great stories, we need to display ads.

Un-block Learn more
Back

Whitelist

Please select the extension that is blocking ads.

Back

Please follow the steps below

Most Recent

  • Mark Burns

    An Explorer’s Ode to America’s National Parks

    A 160,000-mile quest to visit all 59 of the country's natural treasures

  • Mohd Rasfan / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: 8/20-8/26

    Lenin underwater, a penguin weigh-in, monsoon flooding in India, an earthquake in central Italy, a deep blue lake in El Salvador, and much more.

  • Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuter / REUTERS

    Animals Rescued From the 'Worst Zoo in the World' in Gaza

    Four Paws, an international animal welfare group, has just completed the removal of the surviving 15 animals from the Khan Younis Zoo—dubbed the “worst zoo in the world”—in the Gaza Strip

  • Gregorio Borgia / AP

    An Earthquake in Central Italy Topples Buildings, Killing Dozens

    Central Italy was struck by a powerful, shallow, 6.2-magnitude earthquake at 3:36 am local time, devastating several mountain villages, and resulting in at least 73 deaths so far.

Join the Discussion