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Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

High-Energy-Density Plasmas, Fluids

National security depends on science and technology. The United States relies on Los Alamos National Laboratory for the best of both. No place on Earth pursues a broader array of world-class scientific endeavors.

TRIDENT target chamber

Sasi Palaniyappan, right, and Rahul Shah left inside a target chamber where the TRIDENT short pulse laser is aimed at a very thin diamond- foil target, a fraction of a micrometer thick. The laser delivers a power on target of 150 Terawatts focused into a 7 micrometer spot, yielding laser brilliance over 100 times more intense than needed to make the target electrons fully relativistic. These experiments test novel methods of producing intense laser-driven ion beams.


Charlie McMillan, Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory

Director McMillan on research and development

The high-energy-density plasmas and fluids capability covers three areas with strong overlap:

  • High-energy-density plasma physics, in particular, laboratory plasma physics for weapons science and our work on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California
  • Plasma physics
  • Fluid dynamics and turbulent mixing


These areas all share a historic magnetic fusion energy and inertial confinement fusion background at Los Alamos with connections to weapons science and threat reduction in space. This capability has a storied history at Los Alamos National Laboratory, from the “Perhapsatron” of Project Sherwood to the NIF in fusion science to first discovery of galactic gamma-ray bursts with the Vela satellites to the most recent magnetospheric probes of today.

In particular, the high-energy-density plasmas and fluids capability is central to the science of thermonuclear weapons and the Los Alamos mission of ensuring the safety, reliability, and performance of the nation’s nuclear deterrence.

Research directions

Our vision for the future spans the disciplines of this capability:

  • In high-energy-density science, Los Alamos strives to be the “other” Lab primarily using the NIF.
  • In high-energy-density laboratory plasmas, we drive discovery science in support of innovative applications.
  • In space, we are the go-to place for national security missions in and from space.
  • In fusion research, we lead development of alternative confinement concepts and work to address important fusion materials issues.
  • In fluids research, we are using our national leadership to drive sponsor recognition of common science challenges.

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