The National Ignition Facility

At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center about 50 miles east of San Francisco, scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) are trying to achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion -- in other words, to create a miniature star on Earth. The core of the NIF is a house-sized spherical chamber aiming 192 massive lasers at a tiny target. One recent laser experiment focused nearly 2 megajoules (the energy consumed by 20,000 100-watt light bulbs in one second) of light energy onto a millimeter-sized sphere of deuterium and tritium in a 16-nanosecond pulse. The resulting energetic output, while far short of being a self-sustaining reaction, set a record for energy return, and has scientists hopeful as they fine-tune the targeting, material, and performance of the instruments. The facility itself bristles with machinery and instruments, impressing the producers of the movie Star Trek: Into Darkness, who used it as a film set for the warp core of the starship Enterprise.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.
Jump to Comments

Most Recent

  • Ilya Naymushin/Reuters

    A Winter in Siberia

    Based in Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, the Reuters photographer Ilya Naymushin captures scenes from around the region, portraying everyday life as Russians work, play, and survive in a place infamous for its harsh winters. This collection of photos from the past winter shows some of the ways people are coping, including vehicles modified for the winter, hand-built ice-fishing huts, ice sculptures, traditional festivals, sporting events, and more.

  • Minzayar/Reuters

    Reunions and Ransoms in Burma: Digital Connections Among the Rohingya

    The Rohingya have suffered years of persecution in Burma. Rohingya Muslims are denied full citizenship, their movements restricted, their prospects grim. In one internal-displacement camp set up for the Rohingya in western Burma, in a makeshift Internet hut, the Reuters photographer Minzayar captured a series of intimate and heartbreaking portraits of families as they contact loved ones and relatives who have left the country for Thailand and Malaysia.

  • Carl Court/Getty Images

    Photos of the Week: 2/21-2/27

    This week we have a fireball above Calgary, wintry weather from Saudi Arabia to New York City, Iranian speedboats destroying a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier, a Japanese polar bear caretaker robot, Chadian soldiers taking the fight to Boko Haram insurgents, a view of the Moon alongside Venus and Mars, and much more.

  • Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

    A Year of War Completely Destroyed the Donetsk Airport

    In Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, the Sergey Prokofiev International Airport has been reduced from a modern transportation hub to piles of scorched rubble in less than a year of warfare.

Join the Discussion