Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Laser vision fuels energy future

Photonics.com reported:

The proposed European High Power laser Energy Research (HiPER) facility -- a device intended to demonstrate the feasibility of laser-driven fusion as an energy source -- is entering the preparation phase after completion of a two-year study by an international team of scientists.

Their conclusions have allowed the HiPER project to be selected as part of the European roadmap for future large-scale science facilities. The preparatory phase of the HiPER facility is expected to begin in January and to last for three years.

Achieving nuclear fusion using lasers is the goal of the National Ignition Facility, the latest in a series of high-power laser facilities used for research in inertial confinement fusion. Now under construction at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in Livermore, Calif., NIF is being built by the US Department of Energy as part of its Stockpile Stewardship program, and as such has a strong defense mission. "This is largely due to the fact that NIF converts its laser light to x-rays, and those x-rays are then used to implode the pellet (or perform other, classified experiments)," Dunne said. "This is meant to be analogous to the use of x-rays in thermonuclear weapons."

HiPER removes this link to defense science, Dunne said. "It uses the optical laser light directly to drive the implosion and initiate fusion. The physics associated with the interactions of lasers with matter have no relevance whatsoever to nuclear weapons, so we see this as very much a 'swords into ploughshares' undertaking."

Laser Fusion Facilities
National Ignition Facility United States 1.8 MJ NA 2009
Laser Mégajoule France 2.0 MJ NA 2011
FIREX-I + Gekko XII Japan 10 kJ 1 PW (10 kJ) 2007
OMEGA EP United States 30 kJ 2 PW (5 kJ) 2007
HiPER Europe 200 kJ 10 PW (70 kJ) proposed

For more information, visit: www.hiper-laser.org

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