Chasing Fusion

By John Lippert - 2013-05-03T11:09:30Z

Photograph by Jake Stangel/Bloomberg Markets

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2. Target Chamber

Inside the NIF target chamber, robotic arms hold diagnostic equipment and an eraser-size canister or hohlraum. Inside the hohlraum, there's a peppercorn-sized fuel pellet that contains a frozen layer of deuterium and tritium -- two variants of hydrogen. In two-millionths of a second, energy from the laser creates X-rays that, in turn, heat the deuterium and tritium to at least 100 million degrees Celsius and crush it with a force equal to hundreds of billions of Earth atmospheres. This helps overcome the natural tendency of electrically charged particles to repel each other, helping them fuse.