The nuclear fusion experiment that prompted global headlines last December was achieved by a unique laser system. Further progress in fusion energy will require a new class of lasers.
It is a rare event when a successful experiment in basic research makes it to the evening news. In December 2022, the U.S. Secretary of Energy announced a breakthrough in laser-based nuclear fusion. The news was covered in all major media around the world: For the first time in history, humankind had ignited an inertial confinement nuclear fusion reaction that produced a net return on energy. In more starry terms, a research lab produced a tiny sun on Earth.
The experiment was conducted at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), a part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, California. The light source used in December’s experiment is the biggest laser in the world and combines several unique technical achievements. Requirements for the next generation of fusion lasers, however, will depend on significant advancements in the fusion pathway and other areas. But a few of these developments are already in discussion today.
Read the full article (Photonics Spectra) about the future of laser fusion systems and how laser fusion research will drive the development of a new class of high-power pulsed lasers that may open the door to new industrial applications.