• Demonstration of polar-drive ignition on the NIF will be an important step toward an IFE program.

• If a program existed to reconfigure the NIF for polar drive, direct-drive experiments that address the ignition scale could be performed as early as 2017.

Fast Ignition

Fast ignition (FI) requires a combination of long-pulse (implosion) and short-pulse (ignition) lasers. Aspects of fast ignition by both electrons and protons were briefed to the panel. Continued fundamental research into fast ignition theory and experiments, the acceleration of electrons and ions by ultrashort-pulse lasers, and related high-intensity laser science is justified. However, issues surrounding low laser-target energy coupling, a complicated target design, and the existence of more promising concepts (such as shock ignition) led the panel to the next conclusion regarding the relative priority of fast ignition for fusion energy.

CONCLUSION 4-5: At this time, fast ignition appears to be a less promising approach for IFE than other ignition concepts.

Laser-Plasma Interactions

A variety of LPI take place when an intense laser pulse hits the target capsule or surrounding hohlraum. Undesirable effects include backscattering of laser light, which can result in loss of energy; cross-beam energy transfer among intersecting laser beams, which can cause loss of energy or affect implosion symmetry; acceleration of suprathermal “hot electrons,” which then can penetrate and preheat the capsule’s interior and limit later implosion; and filamentation, a self-focusing instability that can exacerbate other LPI. LPI have been a key limiting factor in laser inertial confinement fusion, including the NIC indirect-drive targets, and are still incompletely understood.

CONCLUSION 4-11: The lack of understanding surrounding laser-plasma interactions remains a substantial but as yet unquantified consideration in ICF and IFE target design.

RECOMMENDATION 4-1: DOE should foster collaboration among different research groups on the modeling and simulation of laser-plasma interactions.

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