Studying plasma physics

Plasma physics is an important field of study for understanding the physics of the nuclear warhead.

To help us understand the safety, reliability and performance of nuclear warheads, our physicists and scientists need to research the physics of those extreme temperatures and pressures found in the heart of a nuclear explosion – like conditions at the centre of the Sun.

Our experts explore the physics behind materials that are shocked and heated by picosecond and nanosecond high-powered lasers. The facilities we use include AWE’s Orion laser – the biggest experimental facility for high-energy density physics in the UK.

The Orion laser generates matter many times more dense than solid – matter that’s similar to that found at the centre of giant planets like Jupiter. At temperatures more than 10 million degrees, Orion can both replicate the conditions found at the centre of the Sun – and simulate supernovas in the laboratory.

The high temperatures, pressures and densities we achieve during Orion’s experiments support our research into the conditions relevant to inertial fusion energy, planetary and solar physics, high-energy particle acceleration and black holes.

Our teams also collaborate with scientists at some of the most technically advanced facilities in the world, including the National Ignition Facility in the US and the Vulcan Laser Facility in the UK.


Orion laser

The Orion laser plays a crucial role in supporting the safety, reliability and performance of nuclear warheads throughout their lifecycle.

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