UCSD scientists create computer simulations like the ones above to determine how to successfully achieve controlled, miniaturized nuclear ignition of spherical fuel pellets in laboratory environments using lasers as energy drivers.
Under a recent three-year, $510,000 grant from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Vu and his colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory (NM), Lodestar Research Corporation and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester in New York, are using computer simulation tools to figure out how to successfully achieve controlled, miniaturized nuclear ignition of spherical fuel pellets in laboratory environments using lasers as energy drivers.
Vu said the primary lasers for these studies are the Omega laser at the University of Rochester (NY) and the newly built National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (CA).
"What we would like to do is take the laser and shine the laser onto what we call a hohlraum, a cylindrically shaped black-body radiator made of high-Z materials (typically gold), in the middle of which the miniaturized fuel pellet is placed," he explained. "The material on the wall of the hohlraum absorbs the laser energy, heats up, and becomes a plasma. The plasma in turn irradiates off its newly acquired energy, and the resulting black-body radiation is what drives the miniaturized fuel pellets to nuclear ignition. It's like sunlight hitting the dashboard of a car - the energy of the sunlight is absorbed by the dashboard and is irradiated as heat, essentially electromagnetic radiation on a different wavelength spectrum from the original sunlight. It's a lot of fancy physics. But if you think about in on a fundamental level, it's pretty simple.
Source: University of California - San Diego