PerspectivePhysics

Controlling Implosion Symmetry Around a Deuterium-Tritium Target

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Science  05 Mar 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5970, pp. 1208-1210
DOI: 10.1126/science.1187275

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Summary

One of the goals of 21st-century physics—controlling the implosion of a target and initiating nuclear fusion—has its origins in one of the puzzles of 19th-century physics. The understanding of thermal radiation emitted from a cavity (“blackbody radiation”), which is an important component of the fusion problem, began by abandoning classical physics and adopting the revolutionary idea of energy quantization. Thermal radiation has reappeared in the fusion problem because the powerful megajoule-class lasers do not implode their targets directly—instead, they create intense radiation pressure within a cavity. On pages 1231 and 1228 of this issue, Li et al. (1) and Glenzer et al. (2) show that the distribution of radiation inside a cavity can be accurately controlled to create a symmetrical implosion, thereby removing major obstacles to the realization of fusion energy in the laboratory. These new insights promise another revolution in physics in the near future, one that provides access to new states of matter with unprecedented energy densities.