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New Opportunities for Experimental Science in Extreme Plasma Conditions

There are two Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) facilities in the US which can produce pressures reaching 100 billion atmospheres and temperatures of 100 million Kelvin, conditions that exist naturally only in the centers of stars or large planets.

Other international efforts include:

These facilities provide some unique opportunities for nuclear science. At a recent workshop held jointly by the National Nuclear Security Administration and U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, some of these opportunities were developed and captured in Basic Research Directions for User Science at the National Ignition Facility http://nnsa.energy.gov/sites/default/files/nnsa/inlinefiles/nif_final_%20draft_100311_js_JH--high%20res.pdf

This report focused on two unique, complementary features of ICF facilities compared with accelerator facilities. First, ICF facilities create plasma conditions very similar to stellar environments and the data rate is high, albeit for short time. Hence these facilities have very different systematic uncertainties than underground accelerator facilities and potentially can be used to validate reaction network simulations. Second, NIF is a very bright neutron source, many orders of magnitude brighter than any other accelerator or reactor facility, and to some extent the neutron spectrum can be tailored by the experimenter. This high brightness is useful for measuring s process cross sections on targets with very little material (which can also be radioactive). In addition, the brightness is potentially high enough that a significant number of nuclei could sequentially undergo to two nuclear reactions within ~10 ps, providing a capability to study reactions on short-lived excited states.

The report highlighted three main opportunities:

  1. Stellar and Big Bang nucleosynthesis in plasmas
  2. Formation of the heavy elements and the role of excited nuclear states
  3. Nuclear probes to elucidate the physics in these plasmas and the pursuit of fusion energy

I've uploaded two recent talks I've given and one by Lee Bernstein on some of these opportunities,.

wiki/opportunities_at_nif_mcnabb.txt · Last modified: 2013/01/10 17:47 (external edit)