Gallery: World’s Largest Laser to Attempt Nuclear Fusion


Laser enthusiasts everywhere, rejoice. California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory just unveiled its $3.5 billion National Ignition Facility, a 10 story building as wide as three football fields that contains the world’s largest laser. When it goes online the facility will focus 192 laser beams on a 2 millimeter ball of frozen hydrogen gas in an attempt to create nuclear fusion – the holy grail of clean energy. If the machine does succeed, it stands to monumentally alter our energy landscape — one cubic kilometer of sea water has the fusion energy equivalent of the entire planet’s oil reserves!

If the test run of the machine succeeds, it will be the first in the world to produce more energy than it consumes. Once struck with the laser, the ball of hydrogen will theoretically heat up to 100,000,000C and fuse to form helium, releasing 2 million joules of energy.

But don’t get too excited just yet – while the machine is expected to work up to full power in the next 12 months, experiments will be continue to be conducted until 2040, and there are still technical details to work out. The facility’s central laser is only able to fire a few times a day, and the hydrogen fuel pellet has to be replaced between each shot. And then, of course, there are the NIMBY-ers. A group called Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment speculate that the machine is designed to help build nuclear weapons and could potentially contaminate the surrounding community with radioactive activity.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has stated: “We have invented the world’s largest laser system. We can create the stars right here on earth And I can see already my friends in Hollywood being very upset that their stuff that they show on the big screen is obsolete. We have the real stuff right here.”

+ National Ignition Facility

Via Guardian UK


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  1. MrCRT August 29, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    And it will still fail to read DVDs / Bluerays as the lasers fail just like all the other consumer electronic stuff does !!!!!!!

  2. World's Largest Laser a... October 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    […] week California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced that it fired up the world’s largest laser in a ‘dry run’ — a crucial first step towards the lab’s goal of creating […]

  3. Tom Tolman February 10, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    The alternative approach to controlled fusion power seems to me to have better long-term prospects, as it might provide for essentially continuous power production rather than pulsed. That is magnetic confinement and compression of a plasma. This alternative approach is, as I recall, being pursued by Los Alamos National Laboratory. What is the status of that development program???

  4. Tensegrity June 7, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Sorry but this is not the the first invention in the world to produce more energy than it consumes.
    The Hydrosonic pump, (cavitation heater)
    has been providing for the ability to produce more power than it consumes for some years now.
    and at a whole lot less cost than $3.5 billion.

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