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  • richardmitnick 4:12 pm on March 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , U Rochester OMEGA EP Laser System   

    From Science: “Scientists rally to save U Rochester OMEGA EP Laser System that Trump has targeted for closure” 

    Science Magazine

    Mar. 7, 2018
    Daniel Clery

    U Rochester Omega Laser facility

    U Rochester OMEGA EP Laser System

    U Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics

    U Rochester

    Physicists and politicians are rallying to the defense of the Omega laser at the University of Rochester (U of R) in New York, an iconic facility in the search for fusion energy that President Donald Trump has proposed defunding.

    The move to wind down the lab over 3 years, included in the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) fiscal 2019 budget request released last month, came as a bolt from out of the blue. In addition to being a mainstay of efforts to figure out how to use lasers to create fusion energy, the 23-year-old facility also does pioneering work in studying matter at high-energy density. And it has been deeply involved in DOE’s stockpile stewardship program, which aims to ensure the reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons. “We were not consulted, there was no discussion whatsoever,” about the funding change, says E. Michael Campbell, director of U of R’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE), which runs the laser. “It makes no sense for the long-term vision of how stockpile stewardship works.”

    The budget request calls for a 20% reduction in DOE’s inertial confinement fusion (ICF) program, which supports Omega, to $419 million. The request would initiate the 3-year phaseout of the LLE by cutting its budget from $68 million in 2017 to $45 million in 2019. (Congress has yet to set the 2018 budget.)

    Fusion is the process of generating energy by melding together light atoms; it requires heating the fusion fuel (hydrogen isotopes) to tens or hundreds of millions of degrees. Inertial confinement fusion achieves this by crushing tiny capsules of fuel with intense laser or magnetic field pulses to achieve the required conditions. The hot, dense plasma produced is also the state of matter created in a nuclear explosion, hence the importance of this field to understanding nuclear bombs in the absence of explosive testing.

    Omega led the field from 1999 until 2005, when it was overtaken by the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, but it continues to do important work refining the fusion process.

    National Ignition Facility at LLNL

    “Omega does 80% of the shots in this field,” Campbell says.

    The president’s request also calls for cuts to fusion work at NIF and an immediate axing of funding to the Nike laser at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, D.C.

    Navy Research Lab Nike Laser Facility | Plasma Physics Division

    “The loss of NRL and eventual loss of LLE would greatly reduce the physics capability and innovation in the ICF program,” says NRL’s Stephen Obenschain. A program to manufacture fusion targets and support for academic scientists who want to use the facilities would also be cut.

    Lobbying push

    Leaders of the U of R lab are making frequent trips to Washington, D.C., to win over members of Congress who will make the final decision on spending. Researchers from other labs have also been sending letters of support. “They all asked what they could do to help,” says Riccardo Betti, an assistant director at LLE.

    Omega’s closure would have “irreversible and disastrous ramifications for maintaining the safety and reliability of our nuclear stockpile,” Richard Petrasso of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Plasma Science and Fusion Center in Cambridge wrote in one letter to Representative Joe Kennedy III (D–MA). “Such an action would be calamitous for the field and would largely eliminate, not only for MIT, but for all other universities, the training and education of Ph.D. scientists working in [high energy density physics].”

    Fifty-one fusion researchers from across Europe signed a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry stating: “The Omega lasers … are the world’s most productive facilities in fielding experiments in high energy density physics. They are not only key to the mission of the US national laboratories but also accessible to the larger academic community to carry out experiments that often led to breakthroughs in physics … we petition the US government to reverse this misguided decision.”

    Lawmakers are alert to the issue. At a hearing yesterday on fusion research held by the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Representative Paul Tonko (D–NY) noted that LLE had been “targeted for severe cuts” in the budget request. “Omega deserves our support,” he added. NIF Director Mark Herrmann, who was giving testimony, said, “It would be a great loss if LLE shut down.” Committee member Representative Bill Foster (D–IL) agreed that it would be “tremendously damaging, especially to NIF.”

    Senator Charles Schumer (D–NY), the Senate’s top Democrat, is also supporting the lab. He visited LLE on 5 March and said: “Let me be clear, I will work hard to vaporize any efforts to cut or eliminate Rochester’s laser lab.” He also said that he “will be urging Congress to include $75 million worth of federal funding for the LLE” in this year’s appropriations bill, which Congress expects to complete later this month.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:36 pm on July 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A high Mach number shock wave, High-energy plasma, , , , The first high-energy shock waves in a laboratory setting, U Rochester OMEGA EP Laser System   

    From PPPL: “Scientists create first laboratory generation of high-energy shock waves that accelerate astrophysical particles” 


    July 14, 2017
    John Greenwald

    Physicist Derek Schaeffer. (Photo by Elle Starkman/Office of Communications).

    Throughout the universe, supersonic shock waves propel cosmic rays and supernova particles to velocities near the speed of light. The most high-energy of these astrophysical shocks occur too far outside the solar system to be studied in detail and have long puzzled astrophysicists. Shocks closer to Earth can be detected by spacecraft, but they fly by too quickly to probe a wave’s formation.

    No image credit or caption.

    Opening the door to new understanding

    Now a team of scientists has generated the first high-energy shock waves in a laboratory setting, opening the door to new understanding of these mysterious processes. “We have for the first time developed a platform for studying highly energetic shocks with greater flexibility and control than is possible with spacecraft,” said Derek Schaeffer, a physicist at Princeton University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), and lead author of a July paper in Physical Review Letters that outlines the experiments.

    Schaeffer and colleagues conducted their research on the Omega EP laser facility at the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics.

    U Rochester OMEGA EP Laser System

    U Rochester Omega Laser

    Collaborating on the project was PPPL physicist Will Fox, who designed the experiment, and researchers from Rochester and the universities of Michigan and New Hampshire. “This lets you understand the evolution of the physical processes going on inside shock waves,” Fox said of the platform.

    To produce the wave, scientists used a laser to create a high-energy plasma — a form of matter composed of atoms and charged atomic particles — that expanded into a pre-existing magnetized plasma. The interaction created, within a few billionths of a second, a magnetized shock wave that expanded at a rate of more than 1 million miles per hour, congruent with shocks beyond the solar system. The rapid velocity represented a high “magnetosonic Mach number” and the wave was “collisionless,” emulating shocks that occur in outer space where particles are too far apart to frequently collide.

    Discovery by accident

    Discovery of this method of generating shock waves actually came about by accident. The physicists had been studying magnetic reconnection, the process in which the magnetic field lines in plasma converge, separate and energetically reconnect. To investigate the flow of plasma in the experiment, researchers installed a new diagnostic on the Rochester laser facility. To their surprise, the diagnostic revealed a sharp steepening of the density of the plasma, which signaled the formation of a high Mach number shock wave.

    To simulate the findings, the researchers ran a computer code called “PSC” on the Titan supercomputer, the most powerful U.S. computer, housed at the DOE’s Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility.

    ORNL Cray XK7 Titan Supercomputer

    The simulation utilized data derived from the experiments and results of the model agreed well with diagnostic images of the shock formation.

    Going forward, the laboratory platform will enable new studies of the relationship between collisionless shocks and the acceleration of astrophysical particles. The platform “complements present remote sensing and spacecraft observations,” the authors wrote, and “opens the way for controlled laboratory investigations of high-Mach number shocks.”

    Support for this research came from the DOE Office of Science, the DOE INCITE Leadership Computing program, and the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the DOE.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    PPPL campus

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University. PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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