Scientists had to master a new method of growing synthetic crystals to outfit NIF. This 800-pound monster was grown in just two months; the conventional process takes nearly two years.
The crystals are used in NIF's amplifier section, where the polarization of plates of crystal can be switched between two settings. In one setting, the plates bounce the laser light back and forth through the amplifier, letting it pick up energy with each pass. In the other setting, the laser beams slide through and continue on their way towards the target chamber.