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The National Ignition Facility: Ushering in a New Age for Science
Scientists have been working to achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion and energy gain in the laboratory for more than half a century. When the National Ignition Facility (NIF) begins ignition experiments at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in 2010, that long-sought goal will be much closer to realisation.
NIF's 192 giant lasers, housed in a ten-story building the size of three football fields, will deliver at least 60 times more energy than any previous laser system. When all of its beams are fully operational, NIF will focus nearly two million joules of ultraviolet laser energy on a tiny target in the center of its target chamber - creating conditions similar to those that exist only in the cores of stars and giant planets and inside a nuclear weapon. The resulting fusion reaction will release many times more energy than the laser energy required to initiate the reaction.

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The world's most powerful laser, created to help keep tabs on the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile while also studying the heavens, has been unveiled.
The super laser, known officially as the National Ignition Facility, was unveiled Friday at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory about 50 miles east of San Francisco.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., were among thousands of people in attendance at the ceremony.
The NIF, which is the size of a football field, consists of 192 separate laser beams, each travelling 1,000 feet in one-thousandth of a second to converge simultaneously on a target the size of a pencil eraser.
Federal officials said they planned to use it on a multifaceted assignment that would include ensuring aging nuclear weapons are functioning properly without resorting to underground testing.

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When the world's most powerful laser facility flicks the switch on its first full-scale experiments later this month, a tiny star will be born on Earth.
The National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California aims to demonstrate the feasibility of nuclear fusion, the reaction at the heart of the Sun and a potentially abundant, clean energy source for the planet.

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At 3:00 AM on March 10, the National Ignition Facility became the world's first fusion laser facility to break the one-megajoule barrier. NIF's 192 laser beams delivered 1.1 million joules (MJ) of ultraviolet energy to the center of its ten-meter-diameter target chamber (a megajoule is the energy consumed by 10,000 100-watt light bulbs in one second). The accomplishment came less than two weeks after NIF first fired all 192 of its laser beams to target chamber center.
The 1.1-MJ pulse precisely matched the shape necessary for achieving ignition. The main laser delivered 1.952 MJ of infrared energy.

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Imagine a sphere much smaller than a pea releasing enough energy to supply all of the electricity needs of the United States for a brief moment in time. How could this be possible? At the National Ignition Facility, a huge laser in Livermore, California, scientists and engineers are nearly ready to make this a reality. Edward Moses, the Project Manager at National Ignition Facility, explains how energy can be compressed to extreme power levels to potentially provide for a future of clean energy for our world.

The first experiments are scheduled to begin in May.
Physicists hope the experiments will lead to an understanding on how to create nuclear fusion in the lab.

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