Omega Laser Facility Reaches its 25,000th Target Shot

September 2013

OMEGA Laser Bay

The OMEGA Target Bay illuminated by its own light during a shot

Located at and operated by the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE), the Omega Laser Facility, a national user facility for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), recently completed its 25,000th experiment to create and study extreme states of matter. This achievement was noted by NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Don Cook who underscored the important role [LLE] plays in advancing NNSA's mission of "maintaining the safety, security and effectiveness of the nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing."

"It has made significant contributions to the Stockpile Stewardship Program," said Cook. "The Laboratory operates Omega as a very effective user facility. I congratulate the Omega team on this accomplishment and thank LLE for its sustained contributions to the stockpile mission."

The tools and resources of the Omega Laser Facility (comprised of the 60-beam, 30-TW, 30-kJ OMEGA Laser System and the four-beam, 1-PW (IR), 24-kJ (UV), OMEGA EP Laser System) are available to laboratory scientists for state-of-the-art experiments investigating inertial confinement fusion (ICF) ignition, laser–plasma interactions, nuclear weapons research and related diagnostic development. In addition, basic research aims to gain a fuller understanding of plasma physics, spectroscopy of highly ionized atoms, laboratory astrophysics, high-energy-density physics, fundamental physics, materials science, biology, and chemistry. Projects range from experiments exploring the birth and death of stars, the hearts of planets, and the mysteries of magnetic reconnection The 25,000th target shot, completed in November 2013, was a science experiment to study the properties of liquid deuterium at high pressure, which will help scientists design better ICF experiments in the laboratory and to understand the interior structure of giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn.

OMEGA EP Laser Bay

The OMEGA EP Laser Bay illuminated by its own light during a shot

The Omega Laser Facility, which has been operational since 1995, carries out a large fraction of the entire target shots completed by NNSA's large high-energy-density facilities. These shots answer vital physics questions and support the development of diagnostics and experimental platforms for the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, CA. The Omega Laser Facility performs more than half of the target shots for external users, including shots for the private sector. The research conducted by LLE scientists and the operations of the laser facility support NNSA's Stockpile Stewardship Program and are funded by a cooperative agreement with NNSA. Under this program, LLE also serves to educate advanced students in fields critical to NNSA. High school, undergraduate, and graduate students are integrated into the ongoing research of the Laboratory. Over the years, more than 800 students have received training at LLE with over 225 receiving Ph.D. degrees. Current graduate student research areas include: inertial confinement fusion, hydrodynamic stability, laser–plasma interaction, thermal transport in high-temperature plasmas, nonlinear optical phenomena, and picosecond phenomena in solids. During its lifetime LLE has to its credit 2126 publications (1967–2013), 1352 collaborative publications (2001–2013), and 378 lab reports which include the Ph.D. theses (1971–2014).

With 2,000 target shots per year, the shot count of the Omega Laser Facility, with its capacity to collect new and groundbreaking data about high-energy-density systems, will soon reach 30,000. As such, the Omega Laser Facility's mission is far from complete. With constant technological enhancements and a growing need for its expanding capabilities in a broad range of technical disciplines, the Omega Laser Facility will continue to serve the nation for years to come in its identified areas of research, as well as in those that have yet to be discovered.