NRL-Built Argon Fluoride Laser Marks Breakthrough, Sets New Energy Record

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U.S. Navy photo,
U.S. Navy photo,

September 29, 2020 | Originally published by U.S. Naval Research Laboratory on September 22, 2020

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) research team set a new energy record on March 5 using an argon fluoride laser. This energy is twice the previous record.

It delivered a laser beam capable of applying more force to implode a laser fusion target than any other laser technology, which is the oomph needed for a nuclear fusion reaction.

The research team tested this capability by computer simulations with a small pellet about the size of a pea made of deuterium and tritium. Deuterium and tritium are isotopes of hydrogen that have additional neutrons in the nucleus. The chemical elements were frozen together and formed the inner skin of the hollow pellet.

“If the density and temperature are high enough, it ignites the nuclear fusion reaction and produces much more energy, 100 times more than the laser took to do all of this,” Andrew Schmitt, a physicist at NRL, said.

The NRL team wants to develop the science and technologies to a much higher energy scale between 500,000 to million joules to drive a higher performance fusion implosion.

To produce a higher energy laser, it will require a facility specifically designed for argon fluoride.

NRL researchers already leverage the laser fusion technologies they developed for krypton fluoride on their argon fluoride experiments. They hope a new laser facility specifically designed for argon fluoride will further prove the viability of this gas as a cost-effective alternative to current laser fusion approaches.