Development of the indirect-drive approach to inertial confinement fusion and the target physics basis for ignition and gain
Inertial confinement fusion (ICF) is an approach to fusion that relies on the inertia of the fuel mass to provide confinement. To achieve conditions under which inertial confinement is sufficient for efficient thermonuclear burn, a capsule (generally a spherical shell) containing thermonuclear fuel is compressed in an implosion process to conditions of high density and temperature. ICF capsules rely on either electron conduction (direct drive) or x rays (indirect drive) for energy transport to drive an implosion. In direct drive, the laser beams (or charged particle beams) are aimed directly at a target. The laser energy is transferred to electrons by means of inverse bremsstrahlung or a variety of plasma collective processes. In indirect drive, the driver energy (from laser beams or ion beams) is first absorbed in a high-Z enclosure (a hohlraum), which surrounds the capsule. The material heated by the driver emits x rays, which drive the capsule implosion. For optimally designed targets, 70%-80% of the driver energy can be converted to x rays. The optimal hohlraum geometry depends on the driver. Because of relaxed requirements on laser beam uniformity, and reduced sensitivity to hydrodynamic instabilities, the U.S. ICF Program has concentrated most of its effort since 1976 on the x-ray or indirect-drive approach to ICF. As a result of years of experiments and modeling, we are building an increasingly strong case for achieving ignition by indirect drive on the proposed National Ignition Facility (NIF).The ignition target requirements for hohlraum energetics, radiation symmetry, hydrodynamic instabilities and mix, laser plasma interaction, pulse shaping, and ignition requirements are all consistent with experiments. The NIF laser design, at 1.8 MJ and 500 TW, has the margin to cover uncertainties in the baseline ignition targets. In addition, data from the NIF will provide a solid database for ion-beam-driven hohlraums being considered for future energy applications. In this paper we analyze the requirements for indirect drive ICF and review the theoretical and experimental basis for these requirements. Although significant parts of the discussion apply to both direct and indirect drive, the principal focus is on indirect drive.