The advent of high-intensity lasers enables us to recreate and study the behaviour of matter under the extreme densities and pressures that exist in many astrophysical objects. It may also enable us to develop a power source based on laser-driven nuclear fusion. Achieving such conditions usually requires a target that is highly uniform and spherically symmetric. Here we show that it is possible to generate high densities in a so-called fast-ignition target that consists of a thin shell whose spherical symmetry is interrupted by the inclusion of a metal cone. Using picosecond-time-resolved X-ray radiography, we show that we can achieve areal densities in excess of 300 mg cm−2 with a nanosecond-duration compression pulse—the highest areal density ever reported for a cone-in-shell target. Such densities are high enough to stop MeV electrons, which is necessary for igniting the fuel with a subsequent picosecond pulse focused into the resulting plasma.
12 December 2014
Nature Communications 5, 5785 (2014)