The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber. NIF recently achieved a 500 terawatt shot - 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time. | Photo by Damien Jemison/LLNL

This article is part of the series highlighting the “Top Things You Didn’t Know About…” Check back next week for more facts about the Energy Department.

8. The Energy Department runs the world’s largest nuclear nonproliferation program.

7. Since it’s founding in 1976, the Weatherization Assistance Program has helped more than 7 million families save money on their energy bills -- and create jobs for American workers, support small businesses and manufacturing, and reduce pollution.

6. Sequoia -- the world’s fastest supercomputer -- is capable of running 16,000 trillion calculations per second. Why all the power? LLNL’s supercomputer is makes it possible to assess the condition and reliability of the nuclear weapon stockpile without having to perform detonation tests. 

5. Though you’ve probably heard of Earth Day, in 1978 there was also a “Sun Day.” Supported by DOE and the renewable energy industry, May 3, 1978 was declared “Sun Day” at the opening of the Solar Energy Research Institute in Colorado (which is now the National Renewable Energy Lab). Thanks to Rob Stern for the tip!

4. Scientists at the Department’s Joint BioEnergy Institute have engineered E. coli bacteria (yes, the kind that can make you sick) so that it can digest biomass and turn it into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel

3. The Energy Department operates the largest, most intense laser in the world. Earlier this year, scientists at LLNL turned it on for a fraction of a second and unleashed the most powerful laser blast in history. 

2. In 2011, the Energy Department won an Emmy for the first chapter of “The Hanford Overview.” Check it out on YouTube

1. And finally…In case of an Earth-bound asteroid, Energy Department scientists have got you covered. A supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory is helping scientists understand how a nuclear detonation could save the world from complete destruction.