Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Technical Focus Areas: Signal and Image Sciences at the National Ignition Facility
Signal and image sciences advance fusion research at NIF through analysis of nuclear fusion signatures, automated laser beam alignment and optics inspection

NIF stages


The National Ignition Facility (NIF) is a high-energy laser facility comprised of 192 laser beams focused with enough power and precision on a hydrogen-filled, cryogenic fuel capsule to initiate a fusion reaction. Signal and image sciences play an important role at NIF in several areas, including analysis of nuclear fusion signatures, automated alignment of the laser beams onto the fuel capsule and optics inspection.

Our Capabilities

Analysis of Fusion Signatures

A diagnostic instrumentation system is used to evaluate NIF's fusion reaction. Using more than twenty target diagnostic systems, novel signal and image processing turns raw diagnostic data into key performance metrics.

Recent research includes:

Contact: Judy Liebman, (925) 423-4269,

Automated Alignment of Multi-beam Laser Systems

Steering 192 laser beams through a complex optical path onto a small fuel capsule requires precise alignment of the optics. The NIF Automated Alignment system uses a highly parallel control system composed of hundreds of control loops and devices. A central component of the alignment system is the image analysis algorithms, which extract information from alignment imagery and provide feedback for the control loops.

Researchers at NIF are actively pursuing new image processing algorithms to align the Advanced Radiographic Capability (ARC) a petawatt laser designed to produce highly energetic x-rays for backlighting NIF experiments.

Publication at recent SPIE conferences:

SPIE International Symposium on Optical Engineering + Applications, San Diego, CA, August 9-13, 2015
SPIE Photonics West 2015, San Francisco, CA, February 7-12, 2015

Contact: Karl Wilhelmsen, (925) 423-7919,

Laser Optics Inspection

Image processing, pattern analysis and machine learning are key technologies used in NIF optics inspection. The understanding gained from applying these technologies allows the prediction and planning of optics exchanges and recycling. Prolonging the life of the optics is required for the long-term management of the NIF laser system.

Recent research includes:

Contact: Laura Kegelmeyer, (925) 422-0924,

In the Spotlight —
Target Positioning and Alignment

The Challenge

192 laser beams must strike within 50 microns of their assigned spot on a target less than 1 cm long — an accuracy comparable to throwing a pitch over the strike zone from 350 miles away

The Results

Target Positioner

The target positioner and target alignment system precisely locate a target in the NIF target chamber. The target is positioned with an accuracy of less than the thickness of a human hair.

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