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Fusion programs score $3.5 million in new grants

Nearly $3.25 million in new funding from the Department of Energy will keep faculty, staff and students in the College of Engineering fusion programs very busy over the next three years.

A combination of nine grants will support 10 to 12 new graduate students working toward PhDs in engineering physics. In addition, fusion programs will be looking for about 10 undergraduates to work on special projects, said Fusion Technology Institute (FTI) Director Gerald L. Kulcinski.

The research to be conducted for DOE falls into three broad areas: design of magnetic fusion power reactors; analysis of fusion targets for inertial confinement fusion; and design of chambers that contain small thermonuclear explosions.

Of the $1.4 million granted in the first year, a little more than $900,000 will go toward new programs. Those programs are in the areas of inertial fusion and Stockpile Stewardship Programs.

Stockpile Stewardship Programs were introduced to replace underground nuclear testing programs in Nevada.

Very tall shocktube

This three-story-tall vertical shock tube will allow scientists to perform experiments on instabilities at gas interfaces accelerated by shock waves. (large image)

"What the Department of Energy is trying to do is develop capabilities to understand matter under very high pressures and temperatures, from first principles and computer simulations. Rather than doing the tests underground, the government is trying to simulate various phenomenon in materials," Kulcinski said. "We are doing fundamental physics which will feed into the understanding of simulated tests."

Specific projects will be led by UW faculty and senior scientists. Specifically, Professors Gregory A. Moses, Riccardo Bonazza and Gerald L. Kulcinski, along with scientists Joe MacFarlane, Robert Peterson, David Cohen, Mohamed Sawan and Laila El Guebaly, will lead work involving other faculty and scientists in the FTI.

Kulcinski said the grants will support research across the college. For example, COE researchers will design a chamber to contain thermonuclear explosions as part of Sandia National Laboratories X-1 project. A team led by Mechanical Engineering Professor Roxann L. Engelstad is conducting stress analysis on the chamber.

"It's a very bright spot for us and great recognition of the faculty and the staff scientists working in the Fusion Technology Institute and with other national programs," Kulcinski said. "The UW has been recognized as a leader in both magnetic and inertial fusion programs and so the government is awarding new projects to us in those areas."

The new projects are in addition to ongoing research conducted by the Fusion Technology Institute for the Department of Energy, several DOE national labs, NASA and other not-for-profit energy research organizations in the U.S. and Germany.