The world’s leading experimental facility for the direct-drive approach is here at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) of the University of Rochester. Our OMEGA laser system creates 60 laser beams, yielding a total energy of over 30,000 J focused on a pellet. Pellets have already been compressed to 100 times liquid density and to temperatures in excess of 4 keV (4 x 107 K). Substantial nuclear yields have been recorded. The OMEGA laser system is also used for studies of indirect-drive and high-energy-density physics.
The OMEGA laser system was built at a cost in excess of $50 million, and its operation and initial cost are all supported by the US Department of Energy. The OMEGA laser is the most powerful UV laser system in the world and will remain so until the completion of an even more powerful laser (the $3.5 billion National Ignition Facility or NIF) at LLNL in the year 2009. Even then, vigorous research will continue, using OMEGA, on ICF, high-energy-density physics, laboratory astrophysics, and related technologies.