Russian superlaser to be as good as H-bomb
Ilkaev says the future Russian facility will be able to deliver 2.8 megajoules of energy to its target, as compared to energy levels of about 2 megajoules for the American and French lasers.“We are making our device later than they did, because such projects are costly, but ours will be the best in the world,” the scientist promised.An ICF laser device takes a powerful laser beam, splits it into a dozen separate “beamlets”, amplifies each one individually and shoots all of them at a pellet of fusion fuel. If carefully timed, the pinhead-sized target implodes on itself, which makes the mix of deuterium and tritium in it 100 times denser than lead and heats it up to 100 million degrees. This is enough to start a chain nuclear fusion reaction.The process is somewhat similar to what happens in a thermonuclear bomb. In such a weapon an ordinary fission bomb is used to produce energy to trigger reaction in fusion fuel. An ICF attempts re-release the same nuclear energy in a more controlled manner.It may sound simple, but in practice it took scientists and engineers decades to create powerful lasers, special optic systems, techniques for precise target fabrication and other technologies to even come close to success. So far no laboratory has managed to produce more energy in this fashion than the amount used to power the laser.
But when this ignition milestone is reached, the result could be a source of clean power with fuel reserves lasting for centuries to come. Unlike uranium, which is used in present-day nuclear power plants, deuterium, which is a variation of hydrogen, is abundant in the oceans.And for the generals an ICF facility gives an opportunity to find out more about how thermonuclear weapons work. Currently the US, France and Russia are signatories to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which forbids any kind of tests involving nuclear explosions.It means the military cannot just take an old bomb and detonate it to see if it's still operational after decades of storage. A superlaser capable of performing a mini-H-bomb blast can provide the data to alleviate those professional fears.