Rochester recognized as leader in high-energy-density physics

Matter behaves very differently at extreme temperatures and pressures. Although extreme matter doesn’t exist naturally on the earth, it’s very common in the universe, especially in the deep interiors of planets and stars. Understanding how atoms react under high-pressure conditions—a field known as high-energy-density physics (HEDP)—can lead to the creation of new materials and give scientists valuable insights into the fields of astrophysics, energy, and national security.

Recognizing the importance of high-energy-density science, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) recently selected eight national projects in high-energy-density physics to be awarded a total of $3.5 million. Three of the eight awards were given to researchers at the University of Rochester.

“The recent notification of the awards in high-energy-density physics demonstrates the quality and impact of research at the University and the Laser Lab,” says Michael Campbell, director of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). “HEDP is a growing and important field of research and the University of Rochester is a recognized world leader. We are grateful to the Department of Energy for selecting these outstanding proposals.”

The three projects were awarded to researchers at the LLE and the University of Rochester Department Physics and Astronomy.

–Pierre Gourdain, an assistant professor of physics, received $750,000 for his project, “How Do Magnetized HED Flows Transition to Collimated Plasma Jets?”

–Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy, received $740,000 for his project, “The Radiative Magneto-Hydrodynamics of Colliding Flow: Instabilities, Reconnection and Exoplanet Atmosphere Connections.”

–Jonathan Davies, a scientist at the LLE, received $705,088 for his project, “High Energy Density Magnetized Shock Physics and Convergent Flows.”

The University is well poised to make major contributions to the field of HEDP. The LLE, for example, is the largest university-based DOE research program in the nation and is home to the OMEGA and OMEGA EP lasers, the most powerful laser systems found at any academic institution in the world. The LLE additionally operates the National Laser Users’ Facility, which allows researchers from all over the world to probe the extremes of temperature and pressure in laboratory-scale experiments.

Rochester also recently received a $4 million grant from the Quantum Information Science Research for Fusion Energy Sciences (QIS) program within the DOE’s Office of Fusion Energy Science. The grant will be used to better understand and apply the quantum (subatomic) phenomena that cause materials to be transformed at pressures more than a million—even a billion—times the atmospheric pressure on Earth.


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