Scientific American makes me jealous of the physicists at Livermore’s National Ignition Facility, who get to utter orders like, “Now, my assistants! Fire the FUSION LASER!”:
On 15 March, the 192 laser beams of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, fired a record 1.875-megajoule shot into the laser’s target chamber, surpassing its 1.8-megajoule design specification. The shot, which was just a demonstration and did not incorporate a target, nonetheless represents a milepost in an effort to get past the break-even point — ignition — in coaxing fusion energy from a tiny frozen fuel pellet.
“It’s a remarkable demonstration of the laser from the standpoint of its energy, its precision, its power, and its availability,” says Ed Moses, NIF director. He adds that the shot was 2.03 megajoules after passing through the final focusing lens — making the NIF the world’s first 2-megajoule ultraviolet laser. Final diagnostic and other optics reduced the energy to 1.875 megajoules at the centre of the target chamber.
Once it’s hot enough, this laser will be able to create a miniature sun.
That’s not an exaggeration.