|The design of the Luch laser device is to be used for the future Russian superlaser (image from vniief.ru)|
February 20, 2012
Russia has launched a $1.5 billion project to create a high-energy superlaser site which designers pledge will be the best in the world. Capable of igniting nuclear fusion, the facility will be used both for thermonuclear weapon and civil purposes.
The new laser device will be used for inertial confinement fusion (ICF) studies. The field aims to recreate in the lab the processes which happen inside a star or in a hydrogen bomb explosion. ICF is similar to what scientists are trying to do with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, but takes an alternative approach to how nuclear fusion is started.
The laser facility will be developed by the Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF), a leading Russian nuclear laboratory. In its six decades of history, it was involved in the development of both the military and civilian nuclear programs in Russia.
The site will have the size of a 360-meter long 10-story building and be built near the Sarov technology park in Nizhny Novgorod region in central Russia, said the institute’s head of research, Radiy Ilkaev, who said it will be a dual-purpose device.
“On the one hand, there is the defense component, because high energy density plasma physics can be productively studied on such devices. It’s necessary for developing thermonuclear weapons. On the other hand, there is the power industry component. The world’s leading physicists believe that laser nuclear fusion can be useful for future energetics,” the scientist said.
The Russian device will be compatible with the American National Ignition Facility (NIF) and the French Laser Mégajoule (LMJ) in terms of their capabilities. The US laboratory is currently online. The French counterpart is due to be launched in 2012. The Russian facility may be ready in a decade, Ilkaev estimates.