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Man-made star to unlock cosmic secrets

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posted on May, 22 2009 @ 03:57 PM

When the world's most powerful laser facility flicks the switch on its first full-scale experiments later this month, a tiny star will be born on Earth.

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California aims to demonstrate the feasibility of nuclear fusion, the reaction at the heart of the Sun and a potentially abundant, clean energy source for the planet.

But whilst many eyes at the facility will be locked on the goal of satisfying humanity's energy demands, many scientists hope to answer other fundamental questions for mankind.

"In recreating the process of fusion it was always understood that we could pursue three areas of interest and value," explained Dr Erik Storm of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), the home of NIF.

First and foremost, NIF has been built for national security purposes, to study the conditions that exist in nuclear explosions and the way that nuclear weapons perform.

"That gives you an ability to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent in the absence of underground nuclear testing," said Dr Storm.

"Then, we can study the physics of fusion - can you make a fusion power plant here on our planet? And we can do basic physics and planetary science."

BBC Science & Environment

Wow this sounds cool. Although I find the National Security angle quite odd.

More from NIF:

Scientists have been working to achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion and energy gain in the laboratory for more than half a century. When the National Ignition Facility (NIF) begins ignition experiments at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in 2010, that long-sought goal will be much closer to realization.

NIF's 192 giant lasers, housed in a ten-story building the size of three football fields, will deliver at least 60 times more energy than any previous laser system. When all of its beams are fully operational, NIF will focus nearly two million joules of ultraviolet laser energy on a tiny target in the center of its target chamber – creating conditions similar to those that exist only in the cores of stars and giant planets and inside a nuclear weapon. The resulting fusion reaction will release many times more energy than the laser energy required to initiate the reaction.

Experiments conducted on NIF will make significant contributions to national and global security, could lead to practical fusion energy, and will help the nation maintain its leadership in basic science and technology. The project is a national collaboration among government, industry and academia and many industrial partners throughout the nation.

Programs in the NIF & Photon Science Directorate draw extensively on expertise from across LLNL, including the Physical and Life Sciences, Engineering, Computation and Weapons and Complex Integration directorates. This goal is a scientific Grand Challenge that only a national laboratory such as Lawrence Livermore can accomplish.

posted on May, 22 2009 @ 04:00 PM
Regarding national security... I can't speak for other nations but here in the US, our government tends to see energy resources as a matter of national security (try getting your military moving without oil, see how far you go)

posted on May, 22 2009 @ 04:04 PM
reply to post by TheWalkingFox

Yeah you're right, dwindling oil and gas reserves are (rightly I believe) national security issues, but from the article ( if it's true) they were coming from a nuclear weapons angle (and how they perform). But it's probably a bit of both. i'd like to see the LHC and the NIF laser fired up at the same time and watch the world freak out!

posted on May, 22 2009 @ 04:16 PM
Fusion is definitely a national security issue because today's nuclear weapons can destroy a whole city - a bomb based on fusion could probably take out the whole planet.

Definitely don't want that knowledge in the wrong hands.

edit: er...should say cold or controlled fusion "weapon", Hydrogen bombs already use fission to trigger fusion.

[edit on 22-5-2009 by mc_squared]

posted on May, 22 2009 @ 04:45 PM
I just hope that they don't blow a hole in our planet!

If we are lucky it would just vaporize us in an instant.

posted on May, 22 2009 @ 05:12 PM
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