IFT Role

ICF target being shot by
the NOVA laser at Livermore
Pictures courtesy of LLNL.

General Atomics (GA) has been involved with support of the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) program since 1975 when we began work on conceptual design of inertial fusion energy power plants. Our early work with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory led to the design of a laser-driven inertial fusion power plant called Cascade based on aggressive science and technology assumptions, which showed inertial fusion could offer a power plant, with attractive economics and outstanding environmental and safety characteristics.

In 1990, GA became the ICF Target Support contractor, providing the five U.S. ICF laboratories with research, development, and fabrication support for inertial fusion targets. These tiny hydrogen-filled spheres, or "capsules", and tiny cylindrical metal containers, or "hohlraums" and other micromachined components are the heart of ICF experiments. We continue to provide support for:

The OMEGA laser's target chamber
with cryogenic target insertion system

GA also provides research, development, and fabrication of the engineering systems that will be needed for the filling, transport, and insertion of cryogenic targets for the next generation of ICF experiments. These experiments will require the hydrogen fuel to be frozen at 20K in order to achieve the high fuel densities after compression that are needed for ignition, burn, and high fusion energy gain. We have contributed to the development and building of the cryogenic target handling system for the OMEGA laser at the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics.

The target chamber end of NIF1
Pictures courtesy of LLNL.

The current goal of the U.S. ICF Program is thermonuclear ignition at a large laser called the National Ignition Facility (NIF). This laser will heat and compress ICF targets to high enough density and temperature that thermonuclear ignition occurs and more energy will be released than was input to the target. GA continues to supply Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory with some of the technologies that will be needed for the NIF.

Credit is given to Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the Department of Energy under whose auspices this work was performed.