Abstract

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) is the world's largest laser system. It contains a 192 beam neodymium glass laser that is designed to deliver 1.8  MJ at 500  TW at 351  nm in order to achieve energy gain (ignition) in a deuterium–tritium nuclear fusion target. To meet this goal, laser design criteria include the ability to generate pulses of up to 1.8  MJ total energy, with peak power of 500 TW and temporal pulse shapes spanning 2 orders of magnitude at the third harmonic (351  nm or 3ω) of the laser wavelength. The focal-spot fluence distribution of these pulses is carefully controlled, through a combination of special optics in the 1ω(1053  nm) portion of the laser (continuous phase plates), smoothing by spectral dispersion, and the overlapping of multiple beams with orthogonal polarization (polarization smoothing). We report performance qualification tests of the first eight beams of the NIF laser. Measurements are reported at both 1ω and 3ω, both with and without focal-spot conditioning. When scaled to full 192 beam operation, these results demonstrate, to the best of our knowledge for the first time, that the NIF will meet its laser performance design criteria, and that the NIF can simultaneously meet the temporal pulse shaping, focal-spot conditioning, and peak power requirements for two candidate indirect drive ignition designs.

© 2007 Optical Society of America

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