Steady advances in increasing the energy, power, and brightness of lasers and particle beams and advances in pulsed power systems have made possible the exploration of matter at extremely high energy density in the laboratory. Exciting new experimental regimes are being realized by exploiting the scientific capabilities of existing ICF Office facilities, as well as the relevant Department of Defense (DoD) and university facilities. Progress in the exploration of extreme states of matter has been facilitated by advances in computer simulation and diagnostic techniques. Japan, China and the European Union also have aggressive programs in high energy density sciences.
National Academies of Science (NAS) reports have described the compelling scientific challenges and opportunities that exist across the field of high energy density physics (HEDP). An interagency task force report identified four research categories within the field of HEDP: astrophysics, high energy density nuclear physics, high energy density laboratory plasmas (HEDLP), and ultra-fast, ultra-intense laser science. The interagency report found that stewardship of HEDLP should be improved and recommended that the NNSA and Department of Energy's Office of Science establish a joint program in HEDLP.
In response to this recommendation, NNSA and the Department of Energy's Office of Science established a joint program in HEDLP. Initially, this program is a combination of work that was funded as part of the NNSA’s Stewardship Science Academic Alliances Program in the research area of high energy density physics and the Office of Science's HEDLP Program and Innovative Confinement Concepts Program. Through the most recent solicitation in 2011, NNSA and the Office of Science awarded 46 research grants totaling more than $14 million as part of the Joint Program in HEDLP. The proposals selected embody the breadth of research in HEDLP science, ranging from the study of magnetized astrophysical jets to large-scale simulation of kinetic laser plasma interactions.