Fusion Scientists Receive Awards

August 2, 2018

Several fusion scientists have recently received recognition for their work.

Max Fenstermacher, Todd Evans and Richard Moyer

Fusion physicists Max Fenstermacher (LLNL), Todd Evans (General Atomics) and Richard Moyer (UCSD) have been awarded the 2018 John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research from the American Physical Society.

The team was cited "for the first experimental demonstration of the stabilization of edge localized modes in high-confinement diverted discharges, by application of very small edge-resonant magnetic perturbations, leading to the adoption of suppression coils in the ITER design."

The Dawson award recognizes a particular recent outstanding achievement in plasma physics research. The award consists of $5,000 to be divided equally in the case of multiple recipients, and includes a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient or recipients to be presented at an award ceremony at the Division of Plasma Physics annual meeting banquet.

Fenstermacher, Evans and Moyer performed experiments that proved edge magnetic plasma instabilities in toroidally confined fusion plasmas, known as Edge Localized Modes or "ELMs," can be stabilized by applying small 3D magnetic perturbation fields. ELM stabilization was predicted and confirmed experimentally by an international team of physicists in the DIII-D tokamak at General Atomics and published in a 2004 issue of Physical Review Letters and a 2006 issue of Nature Physics. Analysis of DIII-D data showed a correlation between the effectiveness of ELM mitigation and the width of the region in the plasma edge where the induced magnetic islands overlapped. The analysis suggested a threshold width of island overlap to achieve full ELM stabilization.

This threshold was used to make the initial predictions of the magnetic perturbation amplitude required to suppress ELMS in the ITER tokamak, which in turn guided the design of a proposed set of internal ELM control coils for ITER, currently under construction in France. These results have since been reproduced in tokamak experiments in South Korea, China and Germany. The suppression of these edge plasma instabilities is critically important for preventing damage to vacuum vessel walls of high power fusion reactors such as ITER. Based on the success of this approach, the ITER organization added a set of internal 3D perturbation coils similar to those in DIII-D in the baseline design of the device.

Bruce Cohen

LLNL retiree Bruce Cohen was selected as the recipient of the 2018 IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society’s Charles K. Birdsall Award for "contributions to the numerical simulation of plasmas, particularly multiple time-scale methods and to their application to diverse plasma physics problems, from laser-plasma interactions to tokamaks."

The Birdsall Award recognizes outstanding contributions in computational nuclear and plasma science, with preference given to areas within the broadest scope of plasma physics encompassing the interaction of charged particles and electromagnetic fields.

"I am elated to receive the IEEE NPSS Birdsall Award," Cohen said. "It is very gratifying to have one's research career in physics recognized with this award. I am very thankful to my supervisors and colleagues at LLNL and DOE for creating a great environment and supporting my work for the past 42 years. I have a special connection to Ned Birdsall as he was one of my professors at UC Berkeley and on my Ph.D. thesis committee, and I worked with him on a number of projects at Berkeley and later at LLNL."

Tammy Ma

LLNL NIF & Photon Science plasma physicist Tammy Ma has been named a recipient of the prestigious Department of Energy Office of Science Early Career Research Program (ECRP).

Now in its ninth year, the program is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.

"Supporting talented researchers early in their career is key to building and maintaining a skilled and effective scientific workforce for the nation," said Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. "By investing in the next generation of scientific researchers, we are supporting lifelong discovery science to fuel the nation’s innovation system. We are proud of the accomplishments these young scientists have already made, and look forward to following their achievements in years to come."

Ma will receive a total of $2.5 million over five years to conduct research for her proposal, "Multi-ps (picosecond) short-pulse laser-driven particle acceleration for novel HED (high energy density) and ICF (inertial confinement fusion) applications."

Ma said, "I'm honored to receive this award, and the coolest part is that I'll get to extend the work of many of the LLNL giants that came before—this type of short-pulse particle acceleration was first discovered on the Nova laser (NIF’s predecessor), and now I get to use NIF ARC (Advanced Radiographic Capability) to push it forward into the multi-picosecond, high-energy regime."