February 01, 2006
Other tech: Laser acceleration of ions
Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno, Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Germany, and the Max-Planck-Institute for Quantum Optics in Germany, have developed a new method for using a laser beam to accelerate ions. The novel method may enable important advances in compact ion accelerators, medical physics and inertial confinement fusion. The new method accelerates ions over a distance of roughly 10 microns. The carbon ion beam researchers created using the Trident laser facility at Los Alamos had an energy level of 3 Megaelectronvolt (MeV) per nucleon, or 36 MeV. In an ICF concept called "fast ignition," the compression and ignition parts are separate and the long-pulse laser is first used to compress the fuel. Then, at the moment of maximum compression, the laser-driven ion beam is used as a "sparkplug" to ignite fusion.