National Academies Press: OpenBook
Suggested Citation:"INERTIAL CONFINEMENT FUSION." National Research Council. 1995. Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4936.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 21 Nonneutral plasma research will be an important area for the foreseeable future, both from the point of view of fundamental plasma science in neutral and nonneutral plasmas and in exploiting this knowledge for technological applications. The panel recommends that continued support be given to research in this area and to the development of technological applications. INERTIAL CONFINEMENT FUSION The goal of inertial confinement fusion is to harness fusion power using intense lasers or ion beams to compress fusionable material, such as deuterium and tritium. The required plasma parameters for inertial confinement fusion are densities as much as 100 times that of ordinary matter and temperatures in excess of 100 million Kelvin. Much progress has been made in this area in the last decade. Important, new diagnostic techniques have been developed. The largest laser project, Nova, has conducted experiments to study the important problem of the physics of interpenetrating materials at accelerated interfaces. Computer simulations have clarified the role that fluid dynamical instabilities play in the dynamics of target compression. However, many challenging problems remain to be addressed. Examples include understanding stimulated Raman and Brillouin instabilities in laser-plasma interactions, particularly at high laser intensities, and understanding nonlinear plasma instabilities and the equations of state and opacity of matter at high densities and temperatures. Many of the outstanding problems in this area have a high degree of commonality with important problems in other areas of science. Examples relevant to space physics and fusion include questions of plasma turbulence, particle acceleration and heating by electromagnetic radiation, and the effects of spatial inhomogeneities on wave propagation and mode conversion. Other important problems have much in common with optical science. Research in inertial confinement fusion can also benefit other fields. Examples include the development of short-pulse and x-ray lasers. While progress toward inertial confinement fusion has been good, continued emphasis on programmatic milestones could leave unaddressed fundamental scientific questions crucial to the achievement of future goals. It is important for the program to reemphasize a broad-based program of support for relevant areas of basic research. The commonality of scientific problems with other areas of science could be used to facilitate progress, both in the inertial fusion program and in related areas. Much of the fusion target program in the United States had been classified for security reasons. Much benefit should be gained by declassification currently being done by the Department of Energy. Given the commonality of problems in this area with those in other areas of plasma science and the importance of basic research in related fields to the achievement of fusion, the panel recommends that some resources be reallocated within the program to support

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Plasma science is the study of ionized states of matter. This book discusses the field's potential contributions to society and recommends actions that would optimize those contributions. It includes an assessment of the field's scientific and technological status as well as a discussion of broad themes such as fundamental plasma experiments, theoretical and computational plasma research, and plasma science education.

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