Duryea, Luzerne County, PA - After 12 years of sustained effort and hundreds of experiments, The National Ignition Facility (NNSA) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) created the world’s first controlled fusion ignition, marking a breakthrough for fusion energy and an initial step in a decades-long quest for clean energy.

This major scientific breakthrough, decades in the making was made possible by products developed at Schott Glass, located right here in Northeastern Pennsylvania's Luzerne County.

The achievement of fusion ignition accomplished in California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) will go down in history as a monumental first.

Reaching ignition crowned six decades of research and development of the world’s highest-energy lasers, all working toward the goal of creating in the laboratory the temperatures and pressures found only in the center of stars and giant planets and in exploding nuclear weapons.

Time Magazine called it “a huge milestone.” Numerous reports pointed out the potential - still decades away if at all possible - of fusion technology creating limitless, clean energy.

“It’s the reason this (building) wing is here,” Bill James said as he sat in a simply-furnished office of the Schott North America facility. “This was made to support work at NIF.”

Fusion is the process that powers the sun. If mastered, it makes nuclear energy without the risk of meltdowns or the problem of waste disposal encountered with the current use of fission for energy production. There are various attempts to create controlled fusion (hydrogen bombs create uncontrolled fusion reactions) around the world using different techniques. In this case, the NIF facility aimed and amplified lasers at a tiny capsule filled with hydrogen isotopes. The trick was to get the lasers so amplified they emitted sufficient heat and pressure on the hydrogen to spawn the fusion reaction.

There are 192 lasers, and each is individually amplified by 16 glass slabs infused with neodymium, an element considered a rare earth metal. That’s 3,070 plates of neodymium-doped laser glass plates, each about three feet long, half as wide, and 1.3 inches thick.

And the Duryea Schott plant produced nearly half of those plates (the rest were made by a Japanese company - every mission-critical supply has at least two sources).

Half of the all-important laser amplification glass plates used in a history-making experiment of nuclear fusion were manufactured in Luzerne County.

Despite the imposing size of the NIF lab, it’s not nearly long enough to aim all those lasers in straight lines. The beams must “bend” and angle into a special chamber, and the mirrors that do the bending are manufactured by Schott.

The lasers must, of course, be focused to that fine point. The lenses that do the focusing are also manufactured by Schott.

When the fusion occurs, hydrogen emits material that coats the walls of the chamber. Special disposable debris shields are used to capture the material. And while the glass for the debris shields is manufactured elsewhere, a coating needed to make them function properly is applied at the Luzerne County facility.

“The bottom line?” says Joe Hayden who worked along with hundreds of other Schott employees for decades supporting the NIF laser program, “Schott’s premiere optical played a dominant role” in NIF's success.

Hayden is quick to frequently deflect any credit, noting that over the decades more than 1,000 Schott employees had to be involved. Still, he’s excited to be a small part of major fusion first.

“This is a thrill,” he said. While it may not offer practical energy production in his own lifetime, “For our children, this is a very significant event.”

“And a big part of it happened here in Northeast Pennsylvania,” James added. “This is world-changing.”

Read more about how the National Ignition Facility achieved fusion ignition at the READ MORE HERE link, below.