Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

March 13, 2019

MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC), a longtime NIF partner in research and education, will lead a new center of excellence to support educational and research efforts in fusion and high energy density physics at MIT and four academic research partners.

PSFC’s High-Energy-Density Physics (HEDP) division and the four other universities have been awarded a five-year, $10-million grant from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to establish a Stewardship Science Academic Alliances Center of Excellence. The PSFC will be the lead partner in the center, which includes the University of Iowa, the University of Nevada at Reno, the University of Rochester, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

MIT Researchers at a Conference TableGathered around an MIT conference table are (clockwise from front left) Research Scientist Maria Gatu Johnson, Senior Research Scientist Johan Frenje, Research Scientist Fredrick Seguin, Senior Research Scientist Chikang Li, and HEDP Division Head Richard Petrasso. Credit: Paul Rivenberg, MIT

The new center’s goal is to generate exceptional experimental and theoretical PhDs in HEDP and inertial confinement fusion (ICF), while addressing issues of critical interest to the U.S. Department of Energy’s NNSA and its national labs.

Officially called the Center for Advanced Nuclear Diagnostics and Platforms for Inertial ICF and HEDP at Omega, NIF and Z, the center will focus on the properties of plasma under extreme conditions of temperature, density, and pressure. Center partners will collaborate closely with LLNL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) at the University of Rochester, and General Atomics.

MIT’s HEDP division has a long and established history of collaboration with these labs, regularly using NIF, LLE’s 30-kilojoule OMEGA Laser, and Sandia’s Z Machine to pursue a wide range of research, including ICF, nuclear science, and laboratory astrophysics. The division has used its accelerator facility to develop and characterize diagnostics for these machines, and as part of the new center will pursue new diagnostic techniques for advanced research. And the NIF-MIT Thesis Program has produced a number of physics PhDs who have gone on to careers in fusion and HEDP research at LLNL and the other national labs.

HEDP division head and Center of Excellence Director Richard Petrasso acknowledged the importance of this partnership.

“The center is about our work in inertial confinement fusion, and also in laboratory astrophysics, simulating aspects of astrophysical phenomena, such as the jetting in the crab nebula,” Petrasso said. “There is lots of interesting physics that students and staff have been observing for years. This new center allows us, with our partners, to really expand our investigations.”

PSFC Director Dennis Whyte observed that the new center is a recognition of the HEDP division’s excellence. Thanking the team for the exceptional work under the encouragement of the senior leadership, he said, “Your work is one of the gems of the PSFC. This division produces outstanding, unique science, and with a mission that is critical to national security.”

Launched in 2002, the Stewardship Science Academic Alliances Centers of Excellence program emphasizes areas of research that are relevant to NNSA’s stockpile stewardship mission and promotes the education of the next generation of highly-trained nuclear scientists and engineers.

—Paul Rivenberg, PSFC

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