Optics and Photonics


Harnessing the Power of Light

Photonics is the science and application of light in which it is generated and manipulated to perform various functions through transmission, modulation, emission, amplification, and sensing. Optics and photonics are complementary fields, with lasers and fiber optics being some well-known applications: fiber-optic data transmission of data, for example, is the basis for the internet.

The world's foremost laser and photonics engineers are assembled at LLNL for research, design, operation, and testing to support missions including nuclear deterrence, homeland security, energy security, and defense. Uncharted territory is explored here daily, especially at NIF (the National Ignition Facility), where experiments support the safety, security, and reliability of the national stockpile.

Optics and Photonics is central to NIF’s work, as we develop, fabricate, and evaluate new materials for advanced laser systems and the experiments conducted on them. To meet those needs, we have designed precisely fabricated fusion and high energy density physics micro-targets, ultra-thin polymer films that can support target capsules, and polymer coatings that can withstand extreme environments.

Our teams also develop and engineer high-energy-density plasma diagnostics in the optical, X-ray, and nuclear regimes to measure the results of NIF experiments. Optics and Photonics at LLNL innovates in diffractive optics, advanced laser crystals, fiber lasers, and transparent ceramics.

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Project Highlights

LLNL is a leader in developing advanced high-energy, high-average-power, pulsed and ultrafast laser systems as well as high-resolution space telescopes and high-performance optical lenses.

A photo of NIF’s laser bays from above, showing 48 beamlines flanking a central utility spine.

Fusion: On the Threshold of Ignition

On August 8, 2021, LLNL achieved a significant milestone in fusion research, demonstrating a fusion yield of 1.35 megajoules on NIF, more than two-thirds of the 1.9 megajoules of laser energy going in. Read Full Article

An LLNL optical engineer inspects the alignment of the optic and lift fixture for an optical fixture used in the Vera C. Rubin telescope.

Vera C. Rubin Telescope

In September 2021, LLNL engineers completed delivery of six optical components for a telescope expected to observe 20 billion galaxies from the Rubin Observatory in Chile.Read Full Article

Related Facilities and Centers 

Fitting together two pieces at a table in HEAF

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