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Physics Colloquium: Delivering laser performance conditions to enable fusion ignition and beyond at the National Ignition Facility Presented by Dr. Michael Erickson - Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory



Lewis Lab 316

On December 5th, 2022, controlled fusion ignition was demonstrated for the first time at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), a major achievement in the field of Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) requiring a multi-decadal effort involving broad national and international collaborations. To drive the fusion ignition reaction with the compressed fuel capsule, that yielded 3.15 MJ of nuclear energy, the NIF laser delivered a high-precision pulse shape with 2.05 MJ of ultra-violet (UV) laser energy and a peak power of 440 TW. This laser energy was an increase of ∼8% compared to that delivered on the previous “threshold of ignition” record yield experiment (1.37 MJ of yield for 1.89 MJ of laser energy) on August 8th, 2021. This talk will explain how the results of our extensive research in laser technology and UV optics damage mitigation led to major improvements in the NIF laser, enabling this energy increase along with additional accuracy, precision, and power balance enhancements. Furthermore, on-going efforts that have enabled operations at 2.2 MJ of UV energy will be discussed as well as potential new initiatives to push the laser performance –accuracy and delivered energy– to even higher levels in the future as previously demonstrated on a small subset of NIF beams. Dr. Michael Erickson is the team lead for the Integrated Beamline Performance group within the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). His team is responsible for ensuring laser performance and machine safety on the over four-hundred user experiments performed at NIF each year. He also contributes to modeling and experimental efforts aimed at enhancing the NIF laser capabilities to deliver higher powers and energies on future experiments. Dr. Erickson holds a PhD from Lehigh University where he worked on increasing the second and third order responses of organic supra-molecular nonlinear optical materials. He then held a two-year post-doctoral position at NIF investigating and mitigating Kerr effect induced filamentation in the NIF laser final optics. Currently Dr. Erickson leads the team that oversees maintaining and improving the NIF laser power and energy delivery, a key aspect which enabled the first controlled demonstration of fusion ignition with target gain greater than unity on Dec. 5th, 2022, as well as recent ignition repeats. Dr. Erickson also works in the Laser Science & Systems Engineering (LSSE) group at NIF to design and field laser experiments aimed at pushing the NIF laser beyond its current operating limits, thus enabling higher fusion yields and more advanced experimental capabilities.