First ever ignition at National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Posted on May 23, 2023

Photek congratulates the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on their historic achievement of ignition. This marks a major advance toward the realization of clean, abundant energy based on fusion, the process that generates energy in stars including our sun. The NIF is developing Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) using the world’s most powerful laser and a precision sphere containing deuterium and tritium. The laser energy is used to heat and compress the deuterium and tritium on timescales of picoseconds until it ignites, generating more energy than was supplied by the laser. On December 5, 2021 the first-ever ignition was achieved.


Ignition was made possible by using diagnostic instruments to measure the optical, gamma-ray and neutron signatures of each fusion shot and using this data to iteratively improve the ICF process. Photek is proud to have supplied some of the critical detectors used in multiple diagnostic instruments at NIF.   Photek supplied the world’s fastest photomultiplier tubes (PMT) to characterize the neutron and gamma-ray signatures over timescales of tens of picoseconds to microseconds for each shot. In addition to having exceptional timing response, these PMTs can be gated on and off in a matter of several nanoseconds, enabling experimenters to precisely time when measurements are made. Photek PMTs are incorporated into both the Neutron Time-of-Flight and Gamma Reaction History diagnostics. Photek has also provided the world’s largest image intensifiers used in the Neutron Imaging diagnostic. The 75 mm diameter intensifier tubes can also be rapidly gated on and off to enable the imaging neutrons over a range of energies.

Over the coming weeks we will be posting a series of short articles describing Photek’s contributions to NIF and supporting facilities including Sandia’s Z Pulsed Power Facility, and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics Omega Facility.

Find out more about Photek PMT’s

Read the full article from National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory