The mission of the Zebra Pulsed Power Lab (ZPPL) is to perform high-quality basic research in the area of high-energy-density (HED) physics, the study of matter under extreme conditions of temperature and density.
Before the HED facility was transitioned to the ZPPL, it was known as the Nevada Terawatt Facility (NTF).
The Nevada Terawatt Facility (NTF) was established by the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) and dedicated in 2000. Supported primarily by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), its mission was to conduct research and to train students in the field of high-energy-density (HED) science, the study of the behavior of matter subject to conditions of extreme temperature and density.
This rapidly developing field explores the fourth state of matter, called plasma, under conditions similar to those occurring in the interiors of stars, nuclear fusion reactors, and lightning bolts.
Special research equipment is needed to produce such extreme conditions in the laboratory.
The Zebra Pulsed-Power Generator
The heart of the ZPPL is a two terawatt (2x1012 watt), pulsed electrical discharge device called Zebra, in which two million volts drive an electric current of one million amperes through a fine wire or array of wires (or a solid/gas-filled target) during a very short period of time (10-7 seconds). The wire (or other target) is converted into a hot, dense plasma whose properties can then be studied via a number of diagnostic techniques.
The Zebra device is capable of creating temperatures in the millions of degrees. It was donated to the University by the Los Alamos National Laboratory to serve as a research and educational facility. The Zebra was installed under the expert guidance of engineers from Sandia National Laboratories and remains the highest-power electrical device operated by any university in the United States.
The Leopard Laser
To support and expand the capabilities of Zebra for research, a 50-terawatt short-pulse laser named Leopard was developed on-site. The Leopard laser can be used to create hot, dense plasmas on its own, or it can be coupled with the Zebra to probe the Zebra's electrical discharge for diagnostic purposes, or interrogate the Zebra-produced plasma with charged particles, a unique capability that exists nowhere else in the country.