LLNL postdoc Frederic Perez is one of three recipients of this year's Ph.D. Research Award from the Plasma Physics Division of the European Physical Society (EPS). Perez will receive his award during the 39th EPS plasma physics conference, held in Stockholm, Sweden, on July 2-6.
Perez received the award for his work on his doctoral thesis, "Study of supra-thermal electron transport in solid or compressed matter for the fast-ignitor scheme." His research focused on addressing experimentally some of the physics of the fast ignition concept, one of the possible routes toward laser-driven nuclear fusion. In this scheme, a critical point is the generation of electrons through dense plasmas using ultra-intense short-pulse lasers.
These electrons are used as a "spark" to initiate the fusion reactions and reach ignition. The thesis brought new measurements and understanding concerning this electron generation and their propagation into the plasma and may have important implications for the feasibility of the fast ignition approach.
Also, in the past 15 years, the research community has realized that a major requirement is that the electrons needed to be confined into a beam in order to efficiently ignite the fuel, and the use of magnetic fields to achieve this goal is now often suggested. The measurements in the thesis brought good experimental evidence of their effectiveness in a reduced-scale scenario.
"Scientific research is not always rewarding, and as a Ph.D. student, it can be difficult to stay motivated all the time," Perez said. "The recognition of a thesis work is a great encouragement to start a career in research."
The EPS Ph.D. Research Award was created in 2005. The prize is a key element of the EPS Plasma Physics Division activities to recognize exceptional quality of the work carried out by young scientists.