National Capital Section
of the Optical Society of America

First 2016-2017 meeting of the
National Capital Section of the Optical Society of America

Joint meeting with the IEEE Photonics Society,
Washington, DC/No.
Virginia Chapter

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
6:00 PM

At the University of Maryland’s A.V. Williams Building

Room 2406


Dr. Steve Obenschain

 Head, Laser Plasma Branch, Physics Division, NRL
 “Laser Fusion Research at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory:
An attractive path to inertial fusion and practical fusion energy”


Inertial confinement fusion (ICF) would involve the compression and ignition of frozen deuterium-tritium “fuel” contained within few mm diameter pellets. The most developed approach involves use of high-energy high-power lasers to drive the implosion. This is being attempted  either by direct laser illumination of the pellet surface, or the indirect drive approach where the laser beams heat the inner wall of a gold hohlraum containing the pellet and the x-rays from the heated wall drive the pellet implosion. In both cases the heated pellet surface is ablated and the thrust drives the pellet implosion with ~100 megabar pressures to speeds of several hundred km/sec.

Most inertial fusion research is being done using frequency-tripled Nd:glass lasers operating at λ=351 nm. Short laser wavelength improves the coupling efficiency to the target and allows operating at higher laser intensity before undesired laser-plasma instability appears. The laser fusion program at the Naval Research Laboratory has developed and utilized a different krypton fluoride (KrF) laser technology.* The KrF laser has substantial target physics and technological advantages towards achieving robust direct-drive implosions that ignite and provide high energy gain. The physics advantages arise from its shorter wavelength (248nm), capability for more uniform target illumination, and broader bandwidth than existing frequency tripled glass lasers.  The focal diameter of a KrF laser can easily be zoomed down to follow an imploding target which further increases the coupling efficiency.

Recently we have begun research on the potential application of the still shorter wavelength ArF laser to ICF. In addition, NRL ICF researchers are developing the means to achieve extreme bandwidths with existing ICF laser beams that is produced by Stimulated Rotational Raman Scattering (SRRS) in diatomic gases. Large laser bandwidth (>> 1 THz) is an additional means to suppress laser plasma instability. This presentation will provide an overview of the scientific and technological challenges to achieving high-performance inertial fusion with lasers, recent ICF research at NRL, and the advantages of utilizing deep UV high-energy excimer laser drivers towards meeting the challenges.

*A recent review paper on KrF lasers for ICF and the work at NRL is available at:

This work is supported by DOE-NNSA.

Dr. Obenschain is Head of the Laser Plasma Branch and leads the laser fusion program at the Naval Research Laboratory. The laser fusion program includes research efforts in laser-matter-interaction experiments, in large scale simulations of pellet implosions, and in development of high-energy krypton-fluoride (KrF) laser technology. This research has been primarily funded by the Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration. Dr. Obenschain was project manager for the design and construction of Nike, the world’s largest KrF laser facility. He was co-inventor with Dr. Robert Lehmberg, of the induced spatial incoherence (ISI) technique that provides uniform illumination of targets by high-energy lasers. He led the first experimental efforts that showed such laser beam-smoothing schemes can help suppress deleterious laser-plasma instability. For this work he was a recipient of the 1993 APS-DPP award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research.  He received the Fusion Power Associates Leadership award in 2012. In selecting Dr. Obenschain, the FPA Board recognized his many scientific and technical contributions to fusion development and the leadership he has been providing to the U.S. and world inertial fusion efforts, including the leadership and vision he has been providing to planning for a next-step inertial fusion test facility.  He is a fellow of the American Physical Society. He received a B.S. degree in physics from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in plasma physics from UCLA.


6:00 PM          Complementary snacks and soft drinks in Room 2406, A V Williams Building

6:30 PM          Featured Talk: Dr. Steve Obenschain, Head, Laser Plasma Branch, NRL

 “Laser Fusion Research at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory:
An attractive path to inertial fusion that could lead to practical fusion energy.”

About 7:45 PM           Dinner (details to be announced at the meeting.)

Jim Heany,


Directions AV Williams Building at the University of Maryland


Take the Capital Beltway (Rt. 495) to College Part (Rt.1) exit 25. Go about two and a half miles south and turn right at the entrance to the University of Maryland campus onto Campus Drive. Once inside, take your first right. The Av Williams Building will be on your right just after crossing Stadium Drive.

From Route One coming from the South, turn LEFT onto Campus Drive and merge onto the rightmost lane.

Make the first possible right, pass Stadium Drive, and A V Williams Building will be on your right.


PARKING:  Those familiar with UMD campus parking should note that conditions have changed.  Construction around the AV Williams bldg. .prevents parking adjacent to the building. There is limited free parking after 4PM in the Regents Garage (#2 in Figure) on entry Level B and  lower Level RR;  and free parking in lot 11b, a few blocks north of the AV Williams bldg.on Paint Branch Dr.. There is pay parking in the metered Visitors lot at $3 per hour (# 1 in Figure). Please pay careful attention to lot signage as you enter to avoid possible ticketing.

For more detailed UMD parking information consult:


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From the OSA’s 100th Anniversary Collection




Lasers, developed during the mid-20th century, deliver coherent light in a tightly focused beam. Depending on application, lasers can be as small as a strand of DNA or as large as a sports stadium. They can generate power from a few picowatts to more than 500 trillion watts. Their applications range from high-speed communications and digital technologies to medical advances and precision manufacturing.


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