The advent of high-intensity lasers enables us to recreate and study the behaviour of matter under the extreme densities and pressures that exist in many astrophysical objects. It may also enable us to develop a power source based on laser-driven nuclear fusion. Achieving such conditions usually requires a target that is highly uniform and spherically symmetric. Here we show that it is possible to generate high densities in a so-called fast-ignition target that consists of a thin shell whose spherical symmetry is interrupted by the inclusion of a metal cone. Using picosecond-time-resolved X-ray radiography, we show that we can achieve areal densities in excess of 300 mg cm−2 with a nanosecond-duration compression pulse—the highest areal density ever reported for a cone-in-shell target. Such densities are high enough to stop MeV electrons, which is necessary for igniting the fuel with a subsequent picosecond pulse focused into the resulting plasma.

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This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration under Award Number DE-NA0001944, the OFES Fusion Science Center grant No. DE-FC02-04ER54789, the OFES ACE Fast Ignition grant No. DE-FG02-05ER54839, the DOE Laboratory Basic Science Program, the University of Rochester, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. The support of DOE does not constitute an endorsement by DOE of the views expressed in this article. We thank R. Betti for discussions. J.J.S. participated in this work thanks to funding from the French National Agency for Research (ANR) and the competitiveness cluster Alpha–Route des Lasers through project TERRE ANR-2011-BS04-014.

Author information


  1. Laboratory for Laser Energetics and Fusion Science Center for Extreme States of Matter, University of Rochester, 250 East River Road, Rochester, New York 14623-1299, USA

    • W. Theobald
    • , A. A. Solodov
    • , C. Stoeckl
    • , K. S. Anderson
    • , R. Epstein
    • , G. Fiksel
    • , V. Yu. Glebov
    • , S. Ivancic
    • , F. J. Marshall
    • , G. McKiernan
    • , C. Mileham
    • , P. M. Nilson
    • , T. C. Sangster
    •  & A. Shvydky
  2. Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California–San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA

    • F. N. Beg
    •  & L. C. Jarrott
  3. General Atomics, San Diego, California 92186, USA

    • E. M. Giraldez
    • , R. B. Stephens
    •  & M. S. Wei
  4. Graduate School of Engineering, Osaka University, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan

    • H. Habara
  5. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California 94550, USA

    • H. S. McLean
    • , P. K. Patel
    •  & F. Pérez
  6. University of Bordeaux, CEA, CNRS, CELIA (Centre Lasers Intenses et Applications), UMR 5107, F-33405, Talence, France

    • J. J. Santos
  7. Department of Physics, University of Reno, Reno, Nevada 89557, USA

    • H. Sawada


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W.T. designed and executed the experiment as principle investigator with help from C.S., F.N.B., V.Yu.G., H.H., L.C.J., F.J.M., C.M., P.M.N., J.J.S., H.S., P.K.P., F.P. and M.S.W.; C.S., C.M. and G.F. developed the crystal imager. Data analysis was performed by G.M., S.I., F.J.M. and W.T. All simulations and calculations were performed by A.A.S with help from R.E., A.S. and K.S.A. Targets were manufactured by E.M.G., M.S.W. and R.B.S. W.T. lead the writing of the manuscript and A.A.S, H.S.M., C.S., F.N.B., T.C.S., R.B.S. and M.S.W. helped in preparation of the text. Figures were prepared by W.T. and A.A.S.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to W. Theobald.

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