Directed Energy Weapons
Project Shiva Nova
Creating a Miniature Star on Earth

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
Most tours of NIF begin at the Visitor Center, which showcases NIF technology and describes the overall operation of the laser. Actual NIF optics and a 1/10 scale model of the target chamber are on display here.

Creating a miniature star on Earth: that's the goal of the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the world's largest laser. When completed in 2009, NIF will focus the intense energy of 192 giant laser beams on a BB-sized target filled with hydrogen fuel – fusing, or igniting, the hydrogen atoms' nuclei. This is the same fusion energy process that makes the stars shine and provides the life-giving energy of the sun. NIF is a program of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

National Ignition Facility (NIF) - SECURE SITE
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory • 7000 East Avenue • Livermore, CA 94550, Operated by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration

Inertial Confinement Fusion: How to Make a Star - SECURE SITE

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is located in Livermore, California, about 40 miles east of San Francisco in southern Alameda County. The National Ignition Facility is in the northeast corner of the Laboratory, at the bottom right corner in the photo.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
A NIF hohlraum. The hohlraum cylinder, which contains the NIF fusion fuel capsule, is just a few millimeters wide, about the size of a pencil eraser, with beam entrance holes at either end.  The fuel capsule is the size of a small pea.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
Deformable mirrors, located at the ends of the NIF main amplifiers, use an array of 39 actuators to create a movable surface that corrects aberrations in a beam due to minute distortions in the optics.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
Laser Bay 2, one of NIF's two laser bays, was commissioned on July 31, 2007.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
The interior of the NIF target chamber. The louvered "first wall" protects the structure from possible flying debris during shots. The target positioner, which holds the target, is on the right.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
The target positioner and target alignment system precisely locate a target in the NIF target chamber. The target is positioned with an accuracy of less than the thickness of a human hair.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
The fabrication of melted and rough-cut blanks of laser glass amplifier slabs needed for NIF construction (3,072 pieces) was completed in 2005. The amplifier slabs are neodymium-doped phosphate glass manufactured by Hoya Corporation USA and Schott Glass Technologies.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
The Laser and Target Area Building is the size of three football fields.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
This artist's rendering shows a NIF target pellet inside a hohlraum capsule with laser beams entering through openings on either end.  The beams compress and heat the target to the necessary conditions for nuclear fusion to occur. Ignition experiments on NIF will be the culmination of more than 30 years of inertial confinement fusion research and development, opening the door to exploration of previously inaccessible physical regimes.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
The 10-meter-diameter target chamber, installed in June 1999, weighs 287,000 pounds. The spherical vacuum vessel was assembled from 18 four-inch-thick aluminum sections fabricated by Pitt-Des Moines, Inc., of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was installed with one of the largest cranes in the world.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
NIF's final optics inspection system, when extended into the target chamber from a diagnostic instrument manipulator, can produce images of all 192 beamline final optics assemblies.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
The NIF Control Room. NIF's complex operation, alignment and diagnostic functions are controlled and orchestrated by the integrated computer control system. It consists of 300 front-end processors attached to nearly 60,000 control points, including mirrors, lenses, motors, sensors, cameras, amplifiers, capacitors and diagnostic instruments. The shot director (left) must coordinate all 14 NIF subsystems when preparing for a shot.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
NIF & Photon Science Principal Associate Director Ed Moses honors a NIF contract worker by presenting him with the final "golden bolt" representing completion of the beampath installation in Switchyard 1 in August 2003.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
The laser bay transporter, an automated guided vehicle, is used to install canisters containing amplifier slab cassettes, known as line replaceable units, into the main amplifier frame assembly units.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
This potassium dihydrogen phosphate (KDP) crystal, weighing almost 800 pounds, was produced through a newly developed rapid-growth process that takes only two months, as opposed to two years using conventional methods. Each crystal is sliced into 40-centimeter-square crystal plates. More than 600 of these plates are needed for NIF.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
In the summer of 2005, the fabrication of melted and rough-cut blanks of amplifier slabs needed for NIF construction (3,072 pieces) was completed. The amplifier slabs are neodymium-doped phosphate glasses manufactured by Hoya Corporation USA and Schott Glass Technologies. A novel, continuous melting process was used to make the meter-sized plates of laser glass at a rate 20 times faster, five times cheaper, and with two to three times better optical quality than with the previous one-at-a-time, "discontinuous" process.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
This is a laser glass slab in a line replaceable unit (LRU) that was assembled in the Optics Assembly Building cleanroom. An LRU is a large metal frame that holds various types of lenses, mirrors or glass that can be easily installed in a beamline or removed for maintenance. This glass slab LRU will be installed between two flashlamp cassettes that fire as the laser beam passes through, causing the beam to pick up energy from the specially treated glass on its way to the target chamber. 

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
NIF laser pulses are born in the master oscillator room, in which a compact laser oscillator generates low-energy (a few nanojoules) laser pulses. The oscillator pulse is shaped in time and frequency-broadened, using the small range of multiple wavelengths produced in the fiber laser, to help smooth the intensity of the laser beam when it is ultimately focused on the target.  There are 48 independent pulse shaping systems, and each of the pulses is transported on separate fiber optic cables to 48 preamplifier modules for further amplification.

Photo Credit: National Ignition Facility (NIF)
In 2009, construction of the National Ignition Facility will be complete. Experiments already will have begun in support of the nation's nuclear weapon Stockpile Stewardship Program as well as to study high energy density physics and astrophysical phenomena and to begin laying the groundwork for fusion energy power production.
Clean Construction Protocol for the National Ignition Facility Beampath and Utilities

Journal of the IEST
Issue:   Volume 46, Number 1 / 2003
Pages:   85 - 97

Stanley C. Sommer A1, Irving F. Stowers A1, David E. Van Doren A2

A1 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
A2 Jacobs Facilities Incorporated


When the stadium-size National Ignition Facility (NIF) is fully operational at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), its 192 laser beams will deliver 1.8 megajoules (500 terawatts) of energy onto a target to create extremely high temperatures and pressures for inertial confinement fusion research as part of the Stockpile Stewardship Program. Due to the performance threshold and requirements of the NIF optical components, the optics and their surrounding beampath as well as the supporting utility systems must be fabricated, cleaned, assembled, and commissioned for precision cleanliness. This paper will provide an overview of the NIF cleanliness requirements, the Clean Construction Protocol (CCP) specifications for the beampath and clean utilities, and techniques for verifying the CCP specifications.

The NIF cleanliness requirements define limits for molecular and particulate contamination. The goal of these limits is to prevent contamination of optical components. To prevent laser-induced damage and poor laser quality in the optical components, requirements for cleaning, assembly, installation, and commissioning in terms of particle and nonvolatile residue (NVR) levels are defined. The airborne cleanliness requirements in the interior of the beampath are Class 1 (ISO Class 3) particulate levels and a few parts-per-billion (ppb) airborne molecular contamination (AMC) (SEMI F21-95 MC-1,000).

To achieve the cleanliness requirements for the beampath interior, a graded CCP approach is used as the NIF beampath and utilities are being constructed by a partnership between LLNL and the construction contractor, Jacobs Facilities Inc. (JFI) in a stadium-size Class 100,000 (ISO Class 8) building. Installation of the beampath components utilizes localized mini-environments of Class 100 (ISO Class 5) or better, with budgets of cleanliness exposure or "class-hours" for each clean connection. Garment, equipment, and operational considerations are evaluated with process verification.

Verification of the beampath and utility cleanliness is performed with cleanliness exposure monitoring, evaluating particulates with "swipes" and the LLNL-developed Precision Cleanliness Verification System (PCVS), and measuring nonvolatile residues (NVRs) and AMCs with analytical chemistry techniques. Cleanliness verification results demonstrate that the CCP specifications are achieving the NIF cleanliness requirements for the beampath and clean utilities.

PDF Files
Clean Construction Protocol for the National Ignition Facility Beampath and Utilities - (Archived)

Sixth Conference on Engineering Aspects of Lasers and Their Application - (Archived)
V. V. Aleksandrov and V. Yu. Baranov
Translated from Atomnaya Énergiya, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp. 194–196, February, 1978

Shiva Nova Organization - (Archived)

 Empowering Light - Historic Accomplishments in Laser Research


In 1974, Livermore finished the one-beam, 10-joule Janus laser and used it to conduct the first fusion experiments at the Laboratory. It was used to demonstrate for the first time the thermonuclear reaction in laser-imploded deuterium–tritium fuel capsules. Starting in 1974, the two-beam Janus laser was used to gain a better understanding of laser–plasma physics and thermonuclear physics. It was also used to improve the LASNEX computer code, a hydrodynamics code developed in the 1970s for laser fusion predictions, which is still in use today.
The one-beam Cyclops was also completed in 1974. Its beamline was a prototype of the yet-to-be built Shiva laser. 

From 1973 to 1977, the Laboratory built four laser systems: (a) the one-beam Cyclops; (b) the one- and two-beam Janus system, which is still in use; (c) the two-beam Argus; and (d) the 20-beam Shiva. Each new laser provided more power and better control over the target-irradiation conditions as well as produced higher temperatures and greater compression and density in the deuterium–tritium fuel than its predecessor.


The 20-beam Shiva became the world’s most powerful laser in 1977, delivering 10.2 kilojoules of energy in less than a billionth of a second in its first full-power firing. In June 1979, Shiva compressed fusion fuel to a density of 50 to 100 times greater than its liquid density. Even more important, according to John Holzrichter, who was responsible for the laser and ICF programs at the time, Shiva proved once and for all that infrared laser light was too long a wavelength to reach fusion energy gain. Says Holzrichter, “The laser beam generates a dense plasma where it impinges on the target material. The laser light gives up its energy to the electrons in the plasma, which absorb the light. The rate at which that happens depends on the wavelength and the intensity. On Shiva, we were heating up electrons to incredible energies, but the targets were not performing well. We tried a lot of stuff to coax the electrons to transfer more of their energy to the target, with no success.”

This miniature “star” was created in the Nova laser target chamber as 300 trillion watts of
power hit a 0.5-millimeter-diameter target capsule containing deuterium–tritium fuel.


Ten times more powerful than Shiva, Nova became the world’s most powerful laser. In 1986, Nova produced the largest laser fusion yield to date—a record 11 trillion fusion neutrons. The following year, Nova compressed a fusion fuel target to about one-thirtieth of its original diameter, close to that needed for ignition and fusion gain. In 1996, one arm of Nova was reconfigured as a petawatt laser. (See S&TR, March 2000, The Amazing Power of the Pettawatt; December 1996, Crossing the Petawatt Threshold.) Record-setting laser shots produced pulses with more than 1.3 quadrillion watts, or 1.3 petawatts, of peak power. The laser pulse lasted less than 0.5 trillionth of a second—more than a thousand times shorter than shots typically produced by Nova’s 10 beams.


When the United States ceased nuclear testing, laser facilities became even more important for defense research, and the portion of Nova shots dedicated to the weapons program increased considerably. Researchers using Nova continued obtaining high-energy-density data necessary to validate the computer codes used to model nuclear weapons physics.

SOURCE: Science &Technology Review
September 2002 Empowering Light - Historic Accomplishments in Laser Research
Ten times more powerful than Shiva, Nova became the world’s most powerful laser. .....


Super Laser at the National Ignition Facility - KQED QUEST
Youtube Link

World's Most Powerful Laser Unveiled

Youtube Link
The world's most powerful laser was dedicated at the Livermore National Laboratory in California. It's designed to shore up the nation's aging nuclear weapons. (May 29) 

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