ICF experiment utilizing GA produced and processed components yielded approximately 1.3 MJ fusion reaction, an 8-fold improvement over experiments conducted in spring 2021 and a historic achievement in ICF
San Diego, August 27, 2021 – Precision components fabricated and processed by General Atomics (GA) facilitated a record-breaking Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) experiment at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in early August.
Under the direction of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the U.S. ICF research program aims to achieve a safer, more secure, and effective nuclear deterrent without underground testing by generating thermonuclear burn conditions in a laboratory setting. The NIF experiment, conducted on August 8, 2021, produced a yield of approximately 1.3 Megajoules (MJ), approximately 8 times greater than experiments conducted in spring 2021 and a 25-fold increase over the record yields achieved in 2018.
“General Atomics is proud to partner with LLNL and the larger fusion community to push the boundaries of ICF research, and we share in the excitement of this historic achievement,” said Mike Farrell, Vice President of Inertial Fusion at GA. “As a leader in the design and assembly of ICF targets and target components for the U.S. national laboratories and others, we are proud to support these experiments to reach and exceed energy parity. This result is without question the culmination of many decades of hard work and close collaboration between countless individuals at LLNL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, and the fusion community at large. The groundbreaking research in ICF is a key element in maintaining the safety and security of our strategic deterrent, and we look forward to building on this success and shattering even more records in the future.”
In a laboratory setting, ICF occurs when a small capsule filled with deuterium and tritium fuel is rapidly compressed by high-powered lasers or electrical discharges, causing the fuel atoms to fuse together and release significant energy. GA supports this research by designing and fabricating the complex capsules utilized as targets at NIF and other ICF facilities, as well as providing components and services important to the shot process. GA fabricates these materials to highly precise tolerances to support the DOE’s ICF research program, and it has been the primary supplier of targets and target support services since 1992. GA provides more than 10,000 components every year for experiments conducted by five U.S. ICF laboratories.
The NIF laser system is the most precise and reproducible laser system in the world, focusing 192 laser beams onto a target the diameter of a human hair. The combined power of these laser shots delivers more than 2 million joules of ultraviolet energy and more than 10 quadrillion watts of fusion power for 100 trillionths of a second, generating the temperatures of more than 180 million degrees Fahrenheit and pressures of more than 100 billion Earth atmospheres that are necessary for an ICF reaction.
In recent years, researchers at NIF have made steady progress in increasing ICF fusion yields. With a fusion yield of 1.3 MJ—approximately 2/3rds of the delivered laser energy—this achievement represents a major milestone in reaching fusion ignition, and presents a new experimental regime to build upon for the future.
About General Atomics
Since the dawn of the atomic age, General Atomics innovations have advanced the state of the art across the full spectrum of science and technology – from nuclear energy and defense to medicine and high-performance computing. Behind a talented global team of scientists, engineers, and professionals, GA’s unique experience and capabilities continue to deliver safe, sustainable, economical, and innovative solutions to meet growing global demands.
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