You’re probably familiar with lasers and you might even have a laser pointer lying around at home which fits nicely in your hands. But now, imagine a laser that is the size of three (American) football pitches. Pretty hard to imagine, right? This huge laser does exist though. It lives in the beautiful state of California in the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. NIF is the largest laser facility in the world and has nearly 40,000 optics in it and 192 laser beams.
Why did scientists create such a powerful laser? Well, they want to create extreme conditions, just like the conditions within the core of the Sun. They want to harness the power of fusion, the process that powers our Sun and other stars, in order to create 'clean' energy to provide electricity for our world.
In a fusion reaction, small nuclei are joined together to form heavier nuclei. In the center of our Sun, there are types of hydrogen known as deuterium and tritium which combine to make helium, a neutron and some energy. Deuterium and tritium are just like hydrogen except they have an extra neutron or two.
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