Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Introduces Electra, a Powerful Research Tool

2/12/2001 - 18-01r
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On February 6th, 2001, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for Electra, introducing the repetitively pulsed, high energy, krypton fluoride (KrF) laser under development in the Plasma Physics Division at NRL. The program is supported by the US Department of Energy Defense Programs. 

The objective of Electra is to develop the technologies needed for Fusion Energy and defense applications. Fusion is the power source of the sun. A fusion power plant would have an unlimited supply of fuel (the fuel ingredients are deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen that comes from seawater, and lithium, a plentiful element), no chemical by-products, and no long term radioactive waste.

One of the more promising approaches to fusion uses intense lasers to directly compress and heat a small pellet of fuel. Experiments and computations at the Naval Research Laboratory are encouraging and show this approach has great promise. However, the specialized, high power laser used in this research fires once every hour and requires periodic maintenance. In contrast, a laser for a power plant would have to fire five times per second, run for several years, and meet stringent cost and efficiency requirements. Electra will develop the science and technologies that can meet these requirements. It will have a laser output of around 400-700 Joules, which is large enough to be scalable to a power plant size, but small enough to be a flexible research tool. 

If Electra is successful, the next step will be to build a laser module sized (50 -100 kJ) for a fusion power plant.

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