aligning laser beams

A positioner centers the target inside the target chamber and serves as a reference to align the laser beams.

“Creating a miniature star on Earth” is the goal of the National Ignition Facility (NIF), home to the world’s largest and highest-energy laser in Livermore, California. On September 29th, 2010, the NIF completed its first integrated ignition experiment, where it focused its 192 lasers on a small cylinder housing a tiny frozen capsule containing hydrogen fuel, briefly bombarding it with 1 megajoule of laser energy. (Pics)


The experiment was the latest in a series of tests leading to a hoped-for “ignition”, where the nuclei of the atoms of the fuel inside the target capsule are made to fuse together releasing tremendous energy – potentially more energy than was put in to start the initial reaction, becoming a valuable power source. The NIF has cost over $3.5 billion since 1997 and is a part of the federally funded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Scientists at NIF say they hope to achieve fusion by 2012.


Technicians access the target chamber interior for inspection and maintenance.

middle plates

The single largest piece of equipment at the National Ignition Facility is its 130-ton target chamber.


The 10-meter-diameter target chamber is lifted into place in June 1999.

chamber lowered in place

After the target chamber was lowered into place, the seven-story walls and roof of the Target Bay were completed.

contruction workers

Construction workers install equipment inside the target chamber.

outside target chamber

Workers on the NIF target bay floor just outside the target chamber.

fiber optic inspection

A technician inspects the final optics inspection (FODI) system for the NIF.

3 stories of the target bay

This photo shows three stories of the target bay and many of the lasers and diagnostic devices surrounding the NIF’s target chamber at center.