The Physical and Life Sciences Directorate (PLS) Directorate supports the Laboratory’s core national security programs in the areas of chemistry and chemical engineering. These programs depend fundamentally on our capabilities and expertise in the following areas: chemical, isotopic, and radiation analyses; selection, preparation, and study of explosive and optical materials; chemical processes involved in producing chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons; chemical preparation of specialized materials; and chemistry involved in the aging of materials. Related chemical science within the directorate includes advances in extreme chemistry, computational chemistry, geochemistry, and nanoscience. In collaboration with other Laboratory and external partners, our chemists and chemical engineers also apply their expertise in novel domains and advance the technology associated with the relevant instrumentation.

The Chemical Sciences Division oversees the chemistry work within PLS.

A scientist makes adjustments to the contained firing facility within HEAF.
A scientist adjusts diagnostics outside the High Explosives Application Facility's spherical firing tank. We use dynamic x-ray imaging with diagnostics such as fast framing cameras, spectroscopy, velocimetry, and embedded fibers to gather data on the processes occurring in our experiments.

Scientific Frontiers

Stockpile Science

Theory, Simulation, and Modeling

Advanced Materials/Nanoscience

Nuclear and Isotopic Chemistry

Chemistry Under Extreme Conditions

WMD Forensics and Attribution

Science at the Intersection of Physics, Chemistry, Materials, Atmospheric, Earth, and Life Sciences

PLS also conducts a broad range of science at the intersection of multiple disciplines. PLS conducts work in the areas of materials aging and compatibility, energetic materials, environmental chemistry, radiation measurements for national security, and biochemistry.

Supporting the National Ignition Facility

We are working to improve the performance of optical systems by identifying the structure of the defect precursors leading to damage in optical materials. Our research will enable material improvements to crystals used in NIF.