Ready to Fire

National Ignition Facility officially opens

  • 0529091236_M_nif_hohlraum_sim.jpg
    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.

  • 0529091236_M_nif_target_chamber.jpg
    Inside the National Ignition Facility's 10-meter-wide target chamber.

  • 0529091236_M_nif_hohlraum.jpg
    The 'hohlraum' cylinder at the National Ignition Facility, 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.

  • 0529091236_M_nif_aerial.jpg
    The NIF's Laser and Target Area Building is the size of three football fields.

  • 0529091236_M_nif_positioner.jpg
    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.

  • 0529091236_M_nif_chamber_ball.jpg
    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.

  • 0529091236_M_nif_interior.jpg
    The interior of the NIF target chamber . The service module carrying technicians can be seen on the left. The target positioner, which holds the target, is on the right.

  • 0529091236_M_nif_inspectibot.jpg
    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.