SETI bioastro: PlasmaNet: 00-051 Petawatt Power

From: Larry Klaes (lklaes@bbn.com)
Date: Mon Apr 17 2000 - 10:12:48 PDT


Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2000 12:25:23 +0900
From: PlasmaNet <plasmant@sakura.cc.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Reply-To: "PlasmaNet: Announcements and News" <PT-ANN@MSIAS.IAS.UNU.EDU>
To: Multiple recipients of list PT-ANN <PT-ANN@MSIAS.IAS.UNU.EDU>
Subject: [PT-ANN] PlasmaNet: 00-051 Petawatt Power

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PlasmaNet: 00-051 Petawatt Power
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Stephen O. Dean
Fusion Power Associates
March 28, 2000

In 1993, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory began
in earnest to develop a high energy, Petawatt (quadrillion-watt) laser
with the aim of proving that it could be used as a "fast ignitor" for
capsules of fusion fuel. The fast ignition concept is to separate the
usual target implosion into two stages: the familiar compression stage
to assemble the fuel at high density, followed by a very rapid ignition
stage using a separate "fast ignitor" Petawatt laser. The technique
theoretically reduces the total energy needed for fusion ignition by a
large factor.

After demonstrating the technology of the Petawatt laser at smaller
scale, LLNL converted one of the NOVA laser's ten beams into a 680 Joule
Petawatt. The facility operated until May 27, 1999 when NOVA was shut
down to make way for the National Ignition Facility prototype.

George Miller, LLNL Associate Director for National Security and
recently named Associate Director for NIF Programs, commented that the
Petawatt "was considered to be such a high-risk undertaking that,
although initially proposed in 1987, work on it did not begin until
1993, when funding was provided by Livermore's Laboratory Directed
Research and Development program." "Seven years later," he said, "it is
clear that the science and technology that emerged through developing
the Petawatt laser will benefit the scientific community, U. S.
industry, and the Laboratory for years to come." Miller said that "to
produce petawatt pulses, the development team had to produce diffraction
gratings much larger and more advanced than what was the state of the
art." "The development of facilities and know-how to manufacture these
gratings has made Livermore into one of the world's centers for the
development and manufacture of diffractive optics," he said, noting
"Since completion of the Petawatt gratings, we have developed
diffractive optics for laboratories throughout the world, numerous
companies, and several government agencies, as well as for Livermore's
next superlaser, the National Ignition Facility." Miller said that the
Petawatt research led to discoveries about short pulse laser-damage
mechanisms to materials that "are now being applied in the Lifetime
Extension Program for stockpiled weapons, and we are refining the
technology for use in large-scale commercial and defense applications."
Among the many scientific discoveries, he noted observations on
"laser-initiated nuclear reactions, high energy electron production, and
the formation of positron-electron pairs and proton beams far brighter
than those produced by any accelerator."

Although Livermore's Petawatt laser is no more, Miller said LLNL would
be collaborating on new Petawatt facilities under construction in
Germany, France, England and Japan.

Livermore's Mike Perry has led the Petawatt effort as Associate Program
Leader for Short Pulse Lasers. He noted that "a primary spinoff from
the Petawatt laser program has been the development of ultrashort-pulse
lasers for high-precision laser cutting and machining. He said, "Brent
Stuart and others first observed the laser's cutting capabilities during
early research on the laser damage threshold for a variety of optical
materials." He said, "This discovery was put into practical use in
developing the first femtosecond laser cutter for use as a precision
cutting tool in dismantling weapons at DOE's Y-12 Plant (in Oak
Ridge,TN)." Other uses of the technology will include the production of
thin films and medical surgery, he said.

General Atomics recently announced that Perry will join the firm as
Director of Lasers and Optics Science and Technology. They said, "He
will play a central role in developing and implementing GA's strategic
objectives in the fields of optics and lasers and their applications to
government missions and the commercial arena." Perry thus joins former
LLNL Associate Director for Lasers Mike Campbell, who was recently
appointed Vice President, Laser and Inertial Confinement Fusion Programs
at GA.
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PlasmaNet: Takaya Kawabe (kawabe@ias.unu.edu)

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