What happens when 2 million joules of ultraviolet laser energy are fired onto a target the size of a BB? Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., hope the intense beam of energy will spark a nuclear fusion reaction like the kind that powers the sun. The $3.5 billion NIF houses the world's largest laser, which went online earlier this year and will be at full power in 2010. In this image, engineers inside the massive target chamber examine the target positioner, the laser's focal point.

Chad Vander Veen  |  Associate Editor