By Jacelyn O’Neill
Frank S. Tsung (Researcher, UCLA Physics & Astronomy) and Warren Mori (Professor, Physics & Astronomy) are Principal Investigators of the project “Petascale Simulations of Kinetic Effects in Inertial Fusion Energy (IFE) Plasmas” which was one of just 62 awarded an Innovative and Novel Computational Impact Theory and Experiment or INCITE grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. INCITE has about 10-20% acceptance rate of limited applicants eligible to apply with a selection panel comprised of top scientists around the world, which makes it extremely competitive to even be considered. Submitted proposals are selected based on point to a new area of research.
The INCITE grant allows for 150,000,000 core hours (the equivalent of having all of the Hoffman2 cluster for one full year), for the Simulations of Plasmas’ research group to study IFE and high energy density plasmas (materials with pressures 1 million times greater than the atmosphere). IFE creates conditions similar to the core of the Sun for fractions of a second leading to the release of fusion energy. Fusion energy holds the incredible promise as a source of clean and sustainable energy, but there are significant obstacles needed to be overcome. In IFE lasers create the very dense plasma necessary for fusion to occur. Tsung and his collaborators investigate ways to optimize the outcomes of the how the energy from the lasers create fusion conditions. IFE is actively being investigated at the National Ignition Facility, which is the largest and most energetic laser facility ever built, with the capability to reflect, amplify, and focus 192laser beams onto a fusion target about the size of an eraser. Fusion at NIF arises when positively charged deuterium and tritium ions (two isotopes of hydrogen which) collide at high pressures. The amount at fusion energy released at NIF is limited because the plasma volume is so small. Tsung states there are many goals for this project and for the future, “there is a science goal of trying to understand how to control how lasers behave when they propagate through high energy density plasmas, but I think that’s only one of several goals.” Tsung explained, “Besides studying fundamental science, another goal is to train students. Still another goal is increasing our simulation capabilities so that we get better agreement with current experiments. The more we understand the more we can help to design better experiments …so that we can achieve fusion [which is another third goal].” Receiving this grant and allocation is the first step to achieving these goals.
Tsung says, “We’re very close to achieving controlled fusion burn.” The future is very exciting, partly because of the development of the Aurora Exascale System, a super computer that can calculate a quintillion (one billion billion) calculations per second, and the continued experiments at NIF which could demonstrate ignition which would be a milestone in the path towards developing of fusion power as a clean sustainable resource.
To learn more about the INCITE grant, read full article.
Read the complete list of INCITE awards and a summary. Including Anastassia Alexandrova and Philippe Sautet.
- Heinonen, Nils. “INCITE grants awarded to 62 computational research projects.” Argonne Leadership Computing Facility. 9 November 2018. https://www.alcf.anl.gov/articles/incite-grants-awarded-62-computational-research-projects?fbclid=IwAR1X3BBz6jwP6qF-TeoZsHg77opi8gjdo_f2Q2VU5nHa9bdMZcTJVoig0-o
- “What is NIF?” Lawrence Livermore Nation Laboratory. 6 December 2018. https://lasers.llnl.gov/about/what-is-nif
- Kurzegesagt—In a Nutshell. 10 November 2016. “Fusion Power Explained—Future of Failure.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZsaaturR6E
- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. 30 July 2009. “How NIF Works.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yixhyPN0r3g