Event Recap: Groundbreaker Tour of Lawrence Livermore Lab with Physicist Tammy Ma
October 6, 2023 - A group of Asia Society Innovator and Groundbreaker Members enjoyed a tour of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory with physicist and Bay Area native, Tammy Ma, who was also a 2023 honoree at the Asia Game Changer West Awards Gala. Dr. Ma led our group through the Lab’s National Ignition Facility (NIF). The Lawrence Livermore Lab achieved the first instance of controlled fusion using the NIF on December 5, 2022. Their website explains, “NIF is the world’s most precise and reproducible laser system. It precisely guides, amplifies, reflects, and focuses 192 powerful laser beams into a target about the size of a pencil eraser in a few billionths of a second…NIF generates temperatures in the target of more than 180 million degrees Fahrenheit and pressures of more than 100 billion Earth atmospheres. Those extreme conditions cause hydrogen atoms in the target to fuse and release energy in a controlled thermonuclear reaction" (https://lasers.llnl.gov/about/what-is-nif). The NIF is used by physicists and engineers from around the world to conduct experiments to advance our understanding of clean energy sources.
After allowing us to hold mock-ups of their laser devices in our hands, Dr. Ma led our group up four floors to see the 192 Lasers up close, as the area spanned the size of three football fields. After seeing their control room, laser bay, and target chamber where they achieved ignition this past December, Dr. Ma spoke with our group about her background as a physicist, as well as presented us reasons why producing nuclear fusion energy is such an attractive goal, since it is safe, carbon free, and sustainable.
If you would like to work with the Lawrence Livermore Lab to sponsor a summer student, pease contact the Executive Director of the Livermore Lab Foundation, Sally Allen, at email@example.com. More information can be found at https://livermorelabfoundation.org/.
Here are some thoughts from our participants:
“The tour of the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore Labs was mind-boggling! We were fascinated by the true science conducted there and the endeavor to get humankind an infinite amount of clean energy. We were so privileged to have Dr. Tammy Ma, one of the key leaders for the recent technology breakthrough, to be our guide. She gave a succinct and clear explanation of the physics principles behind the experiments and how the facility works to achieve the very first positive energy gain in human controllable fusion. We are proud that our country has such a great research facility and world-class scientists and researchers like Tammy. Dwelling in geopolitics discussions is sometimes depressing, but visiting labs like the National Ignition Facility is so refreshing and full of joy. We can never have enough of such tours!"
“It was a great event and very well organized. I think it’s a testament to Asia Society’s strong relationships with key figures in the Asian American community in NorCal that this event could be arranged. It was the sort of excitement similar to a field trip when at school! And it's very inspirational what Tammy has achieved in her field.”
“Attending the tour with the Asia Society for the Groundbreaker Event on fusion with my son was a transformative experience. The blend of cutting-edge science and engaging presentations left both of us inspired and eager to learn more about the future of energy."