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Innovation at the National Ignition Facility

Thomas Harris

Innovation is one of the main drivers for success at VIS... Innovative software solutions bring success for our customers.


I had a recent opportunity to witness innovation on a very large scale during a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area in California, when I visited Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) and the National Ignition Facility (NIF). The NIF is a federally funded project attempting to achieve a sustained fusion reaction by focusing 192 high powered laser beams simultaneously on a deuterium and tritium target, imploding the target to a temperature and pressure environment similar to that found at the center of the sun. The ultimate goal of the NIF is to achieve 'ignition', a break-even point where the amount of energy coming out of a fusion reaction exceeds the energy input. In achieving ignition, the NIF plans to engineer a way to control ignition of fusion fuel, leading to the laser fusion power plants of the future. 


It was amazing to visit with scientist and hear how they're using IDL for their work at the NIF and to see how Exelis software is playing a small role in the development of controlled fusion. Part of my job on the Federal Team at VIS is to listen for customer requirements and feed those requirements back into the software development process. This is what I like to think of as an innovation feedback loop: VIS software solutions help our customers innovate, creating new software requirements that can be built into the software for future release. In this way, IDL and ENVI development is driven by customer innovation.


If you're a user of IDL and ENVI, let us know what new features in the software could help you innovate!


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