LLNL researchers receive nearly $2.75 million for high energy density projects

(Download Image) From left: Brian Wilson, Pravesh Patel, Scott Wilks, Hye-Sook Park, Jave Kane, Yuan Ping
The Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Office of Science (SC) have awarded more than $14 million in research awards as part of the Joint Program in High Energy Density Laboratory Plasmas (HEDLP). Six LLNL researchers received nearly $2.75 million for their projects.

"These awards demonstrate the strong and valuable partnership of NNSA and the Office of Science," NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino said. "The work funded will enhance and promote cutting edge research that supports the missions of both organizations. I want to personally congratulate the recipients of these awards for their dedication and leadership."

A total of 147 project proposals were received in response to the solicitation. The evaluation process, which included a rigorous peer review by outside experts, led to the selection of 37 projects for funding. The awards range from one to three years.

These awards 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, including the areas of high energy density hydrodynamics, nonlinear optics of plasmas, relativistic high energy density plasma and intense beam physics, magnetized high energy density plasma physics, radiation-dominated dynamics and materials properties, warm dense matter, diagnostics and community development.

The LLNL awards:

Brian Wilson, Electronic structure of warm dense matter via multicenter Green's function technique, $180,000: The interiors of large planets or stars are at extreme temperatures and pressures - how does matter behave there? To create controlled fusion, target materials in NIF experiments are driven to similar conditions, making a plasma. To predict properties and explain experiments, this project will work to calculate accurately the general high-temperature and high-pressure equation of state of amorphous solids, and, in particular, to explicitly model the plasma expansion, which will soon be observed at the LCLS & NCDX-II. These experiments create constant-volume, heated elements at temperatures greater than 150,000 K (sun-like warm) and pressures exceeding 5 Mbar (dense). The plasma expansion is dependent on the properties in the unusual situation where electrons have been thermalized while the ions are just beginning to undergo melting from their crystalline order. This project plans to use specialized quantum mechanics techniques to account for all the electronic interactions in these extreme conditions, not possible in other approaches.

Pravesh Patel, Fast ignition high-energy-density science, $1,800,000: Fast ignition is one of a number of advanced ignition schemes that could be pursued for high-gain inertial fusion energy (IFE) applications after the demonstration of central hot spot ignition on the NIF. Fast ignition allows for the possibility of a more energetically favorable ICF implosion that has the potential for higher energy gain due to the separation of the two ICF stages: fuel compression and heating to fusion relevant densities and temperatures. Funding was provided to continue the ongoing challenge of improving predictive simulation tools capable of addressing the multi-scale physics questions that would allow for state-of-the-art simulations that can be experimentally validated. This research strongly leverages techniques developed over many years of LLNL's fast ignition simulation, design and experimental investigations.

Scott Wilks, Isochoric heating of reduced mass targets: creating star-like plasmas in the laboratory, $92,000: This project will employ Livermore's massively parallel computers and advanced hybrid simulation capability to design and model experiments that will be performed at Ohio State University's new high intensity laser facility. This work is unique in that the modeling is all based on first principle physics, and the laser has a repetition rate measured in minutes. By shooting ultra-intense laser pulses at targets measured in tens of microns, it is predicted that densities and temperatures approaching those of the interior of stars will be achievable for short times. The information obtained will expand the fundamental understanding of hot dense matter.

Hye-Sook Park, Measuring magnetic fields in collision-less shock experiments on NIF, $145,000: This project will develop a suite of magnetic field diagnostics to study the magnetic fields generated by the high velocity interpenetrating plasma flows relevant to astrophysical collisionless shocks. Collisionless interactions are common in the universes such as in supernova remnants where the high velocity interpenetrating plasma flows unexpectedly generates electrostatic and electromagnetic shocks due to plasma instabilities. The laser experiments can study microphysics relevant to these phenomena. Various magnetic field diagnostics will be tested using the Nevada Terawatt Facility, Titan (LLNL) and Omega (Rochester) laser facilities. Once they are demonstrated in these smaller laser facilities, they will be implemented on NIF for the basic science program on NIF.

Jave Kane, Scaled Eagle Nebula experiments on NIF, $225,000: These experiments will recreate the famous Pillars of the Eagle Nebula in miniature inside the NIF chamber. With guidance from astrophysicists and astronomers, the NIF laser will be used to create an intense star-like source that will illuminate a nebula-like target, creating tenuous 'rocket' plumes of material. The goals are to discover whether the pillars result from hydrodynamic instability (like lighter oil bubbling up through heavier water), or are simply enormous comets, and to observe signatures of still more exotic, theorized instabilities that could explain star formation in the pillars.

Yuan Ping, XAFS study of electron-ion equilibration in warm dense matter, $300,000: This project aims to investigate how quickly energy is transferred from electrons to ions, or vice versa, in warm dense matter, a subset of high-energy-density systems. This electron-ion coupling time is of fundamental importance as it determines the rates of many energy transport processes. The superbright hard X-ray laser pulses at LCLS - which last only a tenth of a trillionth of a second - offer an opportunity to do such measurements.

For more information on the program, see the NNSA Website  and the DOE site .