Driving research at the forefront of physics to address national security challenges

LLNL’s theoretical and experimental physics research areas are tightly coordinated to provide predictive, validated, and comprehensive solutions for national security challenges.

LLNL’s Physics Division (Physics) use the state-of-the-art tools and unique resources at LLNL to conduct leading-edge research and development activities with broad applications in foundational science, stewardship science, fusion energy, advanced optical systems, and data science. We drive research at the forefront of physics by:

  • Determining fundamental properties of matter under extreme conditions through experiments as well as modeling and simulation using exascale computing resources.
  • Harnessing the power of quantum physics to develop quantum-coherent devices, quantum materials, quantum systems, and quantum–classical interfaces.
  • Developing new capabilities in space science and security, including space-based observations of Earth and small-satellite technology.

Within Physics, our collaborative research and development teams focus on condensed-matter physics, plasma science, high-pressure physics, and laser physics. Our scientists support the National Ignition Facility, the Jupiter Laser Facility, the High Energy Density Science Center, and the Space Science Institute, as well as programs in energy and national security.

Explore this page to learn more about the people, research, and resources that support our mission.


Evans, William J.
Osterheld, Al
Menniti, Caitlin
Caitlin Menniti

Research Areas

Scientist looking at metallic object

Applied Physics

Associate Division Leader: Stefan Hau-Riege

Our scientists and engineers push the boundaries of photon sciences and space technology to meet needs in nuclear security, space security, and basic and applied science. Our instrumentation and analysis techniques help establish new approaches for space situational awareness and space-based Earth observations.

Our work on visual to x-ray instrumentation as well as laboratory astrophysics plays an important role in telescope and satellite missions and astrophysical investigations. In addition, we pioneer and refine x-ray optics to understand photon–matter interactions and support high-energy-density physics efforts at National Nuclear Security Administration facilities, while exploring novel uses of multilayer optics for gamma-ray spectroscopy and thermal-neutron imaging.

Our researchers have participated in notable projects, including:

Our researchers comprise groups that perform basic and applied research to support science and security missions both at the Laboratory and for external sponsors. Learn more about these research groups by expanding the sections below.

Two persons looking at test instrument

Condensed Matter

Associate Division Leader: Phil Sterne

We conduct forefront research in condensed matter physics, science, and technology in support of LLNL missions. Our portfolio addresses national security, high-energy-density science, equations-of-state and constitutive properties, basic science, and advanced technology.

Among our key capabilities are modern experimental platforms, high-performance computing, and advanced theoretical methods. We study high-pressure states and dynamics of matter at the Advanced Photon Source. We implement new algorithms and approaches on supercomputers to model and simulate the behavior of matter under extreme conditions. Using tightly coordinated theory, experiments, and simulations, we explore comprehensive predictive understandings of the physics of matter under a broad range of conditions.

From materials theory to phase-transition kinetics, our scientists pursue forward-looking research studies to anticipate future challenges. Learn more about our research groups by expanding the sections below.

Two persons adjusting test equipment

Fusion Sciences

Associate Division Leader: Harry Mclean

Covering a broad range of research activities, including magnetic fusion energy, discovery plasma science, high-energy-density laboratory plasmas, and fusion technology and materials, we are LLNL’s point of contact for Department of Energy (DOE) and national fusion programs, and we collaborate with all the major DOE magnetic fusion facilities.

Our scientists hold leadership roles in multi-institutional fusion research centers as well as in magnet design for the ITER tokamak. Other international efforts include experiments and modeling in support of fusion energy programs in Europe, China, and South Korea. We provide expertise and support for national security applications of electromagnetic modeling and pulsed-power driven fusion.

Learn more about our research groups by expanding the sections below.

Three persons looking at monitor

High-Energy-Density Science

Associate Division Leader: David Bradley

Our research in high-energy-density (HED) physics includes astrophysics, atomic physics, spectroscopy, radiation transport, planetary science, and advanced diagnostic development and supports major LLNL programs. Using dynamic compression techniques and advanced diagnostics, we explore the behavior of matter at high-atmosphere pressures and at high temperatures. We reproduce the physical states existing inside stars, planets, and nuclear weapons.

Ongoing work includes laser–plasma interactions, particle acceleration, harmonic generation, short-pulse laser physics, and magnetic fusion. We explore inertial confinement fusion and weapons physics at the National Ignition Facility. We carry out our HED science work at major national and international facilities, ranging from synchrotrons and free electron x-ray lasers to z-pinches and laser plasmas. We develop and apply theoretical and computational models to questions of atomic physics, statistical physics, radiation opacities, HED plasmas, laser–matter interactions, and transport.

To advance HED research, enhance interactions with the international research community, and provide venues for training new scientists, we operate two intermediate scale facilities: the Jupiter Laser Facility and the electron beam ion trap.

Learn more about our research groups by expanding the sections below.

Career Opportunities

We’re always looking for talented scientists to join our team.

Everything we do supports LLNL missions in foundational science, defense technology, stockpile stewardship, nuclear threat reduction, and space science and security. If you’re interested in joining our team, browse our open positions or learn more about LLNL research pathways in physics.

In the News

Capabilities & Facilities

Our researchers utilize world-class scientific capabilities and modern high-performance computing facilities to support Laboratory programs. Listed below are LLNL’s state-of-the-art capabilities commonly used by our scientists.