Laser-Driven Implosions Similar at Dissimilar Scales

Physics 13, s61
Imploding targets at two different inertial confinement fusion facilities exhibit the same hydrodynamics over spatial and temporal scales that vary by a factor of 3.
J. P. Sauppe et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. (2020)

Before CGI, action film makers relied on the principle of scale invariance: a miniature set shot in slow motion looks about the same as a full-sized set shot at regular speed. Now, Joshua Sauppe at Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, and colleagues have shown that the same principle applies to the hydrodynamics induced in fuel targets by laser-driven inertial confinement. In experiments using two separate laser systems—the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California, and the smaller OMEGA laser facility at the University of Rochester, New York—the team reproduced nearly identical hydrodynamic behavior in the fuel, even though the setups operate at very different spatial and temporal scales.

In inertial confinement fusion, a several-nanosecond pulse from a laser array is delivered to a millimeter-scale fuel capsule, imploding the capsule and compressing the fusion fuel within. Sauppe and his colleagues focused on a part of the process called the deceleration phase, when the capsule’s lower-density, fuel-filled core begins to slow the inward motion of its higher-density shell. Hydrodynamic instabilities set up by the density contrast between the shell and the core can cause the materials to mix, cooling the fuel and inhibiting fusion.

The team created cylindrical targets to directly measure instability growth in the deceleration phase. The NIF target had 3 times the radius of the OMEGA one and took 3 times longer to implode. But both experiments exhibited the same scale-invariant hydrodynamics—the first observation of scale invariance in the high-energy-density regime. The result means that researchers can now begin to systematically investigate the effects of physical processes that are not scale invariant, like radiation transport and thermal conduction, which will inform the design of future experiments.

This research is published in Physical Review Letters.

–Marric Stephens

Marric Stephens is a Corresponding Editor for Physics based in Bristol, UK.

Subject Areas

Energy ResearchFluid DynamicsPlasma Physics

Related Articles

Harness Strain to Harvest Solar Energy
Condensed Matter Physics

Harness Strain to Harvest Solar Energy

The engineering of structural deformations in light-sensitive semiconductors can boost the efficiency of solar cells. Read More »

A Sunny Path to Green Hydrogen
Energy Research

A Sunny Path to Green Hydrogen

A theoretical study of metal oxides identifies potential candidate materials for generating hydrogen fuel from water and sunlight. Read More »

Nuclear-Fusion Reaction Beats Breakeven
Plasma Physics

Nuclear-Fusion Reaction Beats Breakeven

Scientists have now vetted details of the 2022 laser-powered fusion reaction that produced more energy than it consumed. Read More »

More Articles