Apr 1, 2009 | 28
The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) has announced that the world's biggest laser is ready to start blasting away after 12 years in the making. The $3.5-billion stadium-size National Ignition Facility (NIF), housed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, Calif., consists of 192 separate beams, each of which stands as the most energetic ever built, says LLNL spokesperson Bob Hirschfeld.
Very much like the Death Star, the gigantic space station in the movie series Star Wars (“That’s no moon,” speaketh Obi Wan Kenobi), the beams will focus on a single point to unleash their full, joint potential. The target: a BB-size pellet of frozen hydrogen in the center of a 33-foot- (10-meter-) diameter chamber. The ultraviolet lasers should heat the pellet to hundreds of millions of degrees, forcing nuclear fusion to occur—the same superhigh heat and pressure atomic reaction that fuels the stars.
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