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Supporting STEM Education in Northern New Mexico

  • BSMA
  • LANL’s Role in the History of Nuclear Fusion

LANL’s Role in the History of Nuclear Fusion

  • 11 Jan 2024
  • 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
  • Bradbury Science Museum


Ruhlig 1938 first observation of DT fusion (in flight) at Michigan University


Fusion research has seen remarkable breakthroughs in recent years. In 2021, Britain’s Joint European Torus (JET) set a world record with a sustained 59 megajoules in fusion energy, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory demonstrated fusion ignition for the first time at its inertial confinement fusion National Ignition Facility (NIF) facility in 2022. These achievements were decades in the making. Looking back at early fusion research, Los Alamos National Laboratory played a major role in early breakthroughs in fusion research and in understanding fusion, going back to the days of the Manhattan Project. 

Join us for an evening talk with Mark Chadwick, the interim deputy director for Science, Technology & Engineering, on the Los Alamos historical role in fusion research. He will share the serendipitous findings and unexpected discoveries he and his colleagues made from within the Los Alamos National Security Research Center archives on the Laboratory’s early role in fusion research. 

These findings of Los Alamos contributions include the first-ever observation of deuterium-tritium (DT) fusion [2] in 1938; the first – and surprising – Manhattan Project discovery of the staggeringly large resonant-enhanced deuterium-tritium (DT) cross section (through what we call the DT “Bretscher resonance”); the central and enthusiastic role Oppenheimer played from 1942-1945 in foundational fusion technology breakthroughs (perhaps surprising to some, given his later 1948-1952 opposition to H-bomb development as dramatized in the recent Christopher Nolan film); and indeed the important breakthroughs in fusion science and technology that were made at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project.