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    • 2017-12-06 16:05:32
    • Article ID: 686347

    PPPL Physicists Win Supercomputing Time to Study Fusion and the Cosmos

    • Credit: Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications

      Physicists Amitava Bhattacharjee and C.S. Chang

    • Credit: Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility

      Titan supercomputer

    • Credit: Argonne Leadership Computing Facility

      Theta supercomputer

    More than 210 million core hours on two of the most powerful supercomputers in the nation have been won by two teams led by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). The highly competitive awards from the DOE Office of Science’s INCITE (Innovative and Novel Impact on Computational Theory and Experiment) program will accelerate the development of nuclear fusion as a clean and abundant source of energy for generating electricity and will advance understanding of the high-energy-density (HED) plasmas found in stars and other astrophysical objects.

    A single core hour represents the use of one computer core, or processor, for one hour. A laptop computer with only one processor would take some 24,000 years to run 210 million core hours.

    "Extremely important and beneficial”

    “These awards are extremely important and beneficial,” said Michael Zarnstorff, deputy director for research at PPPL. “They give us access to leadership-class highest-performance computers for highly complex calculations. This is key for advancing our theoretical modeling and understanding.” Leadership-class computing systems are high-end computers that are among the most advanced in the world for solving scientific and engineering problems.

    The allocations include more than 160 million million core hours for physicist C.S. Chang and his team, marking the first year of a renewable three-year award. The first-year hours are distributed over two machines: 100-million core hours on Titan, the most powerful U.S supercomputer, which can perform some 27 quadrillion (1015) calculations per second at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF); and 61.5 million core hours on Theta, which completes some 10 quadrillion calculations a second at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF). Both sites are DOE Office of Science User Facilities.

    Also received are 50 million core hours on Titan for Amitava Bhattacharjee, head of the Theory Department at PPPL, and William Fox and their team to study HED plasmas produced by lasers.

    Chang’s group consists of colleagues at PPPL and other institutions and will use the time to run the XGC code developed by PPPL and nationwide partners. The team is exploring the dazzlingly complex edge of fusion plasmas with Chang as lead principal investigator of the partnership center for High-fidelity Boundary Plasma Simulation — a program supported by the DOE Office of Science’s Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC). The edge is critical to the performance of plasma that fuels fusion reactions. 

    Fusion — the fusing of light elements

    Fusion is the fusing of light elements that most stars use to generate massive amounts of energy – and that scientists are trying to replicate on Earth for a virtually inexhaustible supply of energy. Plasma – the fourth state of matter that makes up nearly all the visible universe – is the fuel they would use to create fusion reactions.

    The XGC code will perform double-duty to investigate developments at the edge of hot, charged fusion plasma. The program will simulate the transition from low- to high-confinement of the edge of fusion plasmas contained inside magnetic fields in doughnut-shaped fusion devices called tokamaks. Also simulated will be the width of the heat load that will strike the divertor, the component of the tokamak that will expel waste heat and particles from future fusion reactors based on magnetic confinement such as ITER, the international tokamak under construction in France to demonstrate the practicality of fusion power.

    The simulations will build on knowledge that Chang has achieved in the previous-cycle SciDAC project. “We’re just getting started,” Chang said. “In the new SciDAC project we need to understand the different types of transition that are thought to occur in the plasma, and the physics behind the width of the heat load, which can damage the divertor in future facilities such as ITER if the load is too narrow and concentrated.” 

    Advancing progress in understanding HED plasmas 

    The Bhattacharjee-Fox award, the second and final part of a two-year project, will advance progress in the team’s understanding of the dynamics of magnetic fields in HED plasmas. “The simulations will be immensely beneficial in designing and understanding the results of experiments carried out at the University of Rochester and the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory” Bhattacharjee said.

    The project explores the magnetic reconnection and shocks that occur in HED plasmas, producing enormous energy in processes such as solar flares, cosmic rays and geomagnetic storms. Magnetic reconnection takes place when the magnetic field lines in plasma converge and break apart, converting magnetic energy into explosive particle energy. Shocks appear when the flows in the plasma exceed the speed of sound, and are a powerful process for accelerating charged particles.

    To study the process, the team fires high-power lasers at tiny spots of foil, creating plasma bubbles with magnetic fields that collide to form shocks and come together to create reconnection. “Our group has recently made important progress on the properties of shocks and novel mechanisms of magnetic reconnection in laser-driven HED plasmas,” Bhattacharjee said. “This could not be done without INCITE support.” 

    PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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    New PMLD Technique Improves Tools to Form Organic Multilayers

    Researchers have developed a new class of molecular layer deposition chemistry that paves the way for a new photoactivated molecular layer deposition technique. They report that their new method will expand the tool kit for forming covalently bound organic multilayers at surfaces. These emerging deposition techniques have enabled engineers to produce organic thin films with improved conformality. Richard Closser, Stanford University, will present the findings at the AVS 65th International Symposium and Exhibition, Oct. 21-26, 2018.

    Spotlighting Differences in Closely-Related Species

    Aspergillus fungi play roles in fields including bioenergy, health, and biotechnology. In Nature Genetics, a team led by scientists at the Technical University of Denmark, the DOE Joint Genome Institute, and the Joint Bioenergy Institute, present the first large analysis of an Aspergillus fungal subgroup, section Nigri.

    Researchers switch material from one state to another with a single flash of light

    Scientists from the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have demonstrated a surprisingly simple way of flipping a material from one state into another, and then back again, with single flashes of laser light.

    The Stories Behind the Science: How Does the Ocean's Saltiness Affect Tropical Storms?

    Two researchers with personal experience of hurricanes set out to investigate the role of an underestimated factor in storm's strength - salinity. They found that salinity plays a larger role than anyone thought, including them.

    Surprise finding: Discovering a previously unknown role for a source of magnetic fields

    Feature describes unexpected discovery of a role the process that seeds magnetic fields plays in mediating a phenomenon that occurs throughout the universe and can disrupt cell phone service and knock out power grids on Earth.

    Genetic behavior reveals cause of death in poplars essential to ecosystems, industry

    Scientists studying a valuable, but vulnerable, species of poplar have identified the genetic mechanism responsible for the species' inability to resist a pervasive and deadly disease. Their finding could lead to more successful hybrid poplar varieties for increased biofuels and forestry production and protect native trees against infection.

    Pushing the (Extra Cold) Frontiers of Superconducting Science

    Ames Laboratory has developed a method to measure magnetic properties of superconducting and magnetic materials that exhibit unusual quantum behavior at very low temperatures in high magnetic fields.

    Scientists Find Unusual Behavior in Topological Material

    Argonne scientists have identified a new class of topological materials made by inserting transition metal atoms into the atomic lattice of a well-known two-dimensional material.

    Wind Farms and Reducing Hurricane Precipitation

    New research reveals an unexpected benefit of large-scale offshore wind farms: the ability to lessen precipitation from hurricanes.

    New simulations confirm efficiency of waste-removal process in plasma device

    PPPL scientists have found evidence suggesting that a process could remove the unwanted ash produced during fusion reactions and make the fusion processes more efficient within a type of fusion facility known as a field-reversed configuration device.


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    Physicist Takes Cues from Artificial Intelligence

    In the world of computing, there's a groundswell of excitement for what is perceived as the impending revolution in artificial intelligence. Like the industrial revolution in the 19th century and the digital revolution in the 20th, the AI revolution is expected to change the way we live and work. Now, Cristiano Fanelli aims to bring the AI revolution to nuclear physics.

    Engineering professor receives Department of Energy grant

    New Mexico State University Department of Civil Engineering Assistant Professor Ehsan Dehghan Niri has received a United States Department of Energy grant. This is a three-year award for $400,000 and is a collaboration with Arizona State University.

    Argonne and Capstone receive funding to advance thermal energy storage technology

    The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and Capstone Turbine Corp. have received $380,000 in DOE Technology Commercialization Funding to refine Argonne's high-efficiency, fast charging/discharging latent heat thermal energy storage system (TESS) for use in building applications and process/manufacturing industries.

    AVS and AIP Publishing Expand Partnership to Launch AVS Quantum Science

    AIP Publishing and AVS: Science and Technology of Materials, Interfaces, and Processing (AVS) today announced an agreement to publish AVS Quantum Science, a new online interdisciplinary journal. The announcement coincides with the AVS 65th International Symposium & Exhibition in Long Beach, California, from October 21-26, 2018.

    Prototype Solar Energy, Battery Systems to Fuel Commercialization

    Designing, building and testing prototype systems that show how renewable energy can power devices, such as a weather and soil sensor station, can help bridge the gap between basic science research and commercialization.

    Argonne to Advance High Performance Computing in Manufacturing

    Argonne awarded funding to partner with Industry to advance the use of high performance computing in manufacturing.

    "Invisible Glass" Wins 2018 Create the Future Design Contest Grand Prize

    Scientists from the Center for Functional Nanomaterials developed a technique for making nonreflecting glass, silicon, and plastic surfaces.

    Missouri S&T researchers win multimillion dollar grant to build fast-charging stations for electric cars

    Researchers from Missouri S&T and three private companies will combine their expertise to create charging stations for electric vehicles that could charge a car in less than 10 minutes - matching the time it takes to fill up a conventional vehicle with gasoline."The big problem with electric vehicles is range, and it's not so much range as range anxiety.

    Making batteries store more energy, last longer

    A new solid polymer electrolyte may help make cell phone batteries store more energy and last longer.

    Three Brookhaven Lab Scientists Named Fellows of American Physical Society

    The American Physical Society (APS), the world's largest physics organization, has elected three scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory as 2018 APS fellows.


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    Cryocooler Cools an Accelerator Cavity

    Researchers demonstrated cryogen-free operation of a superconducting radio-frequency cavity that might ease barriers to its use in societal applications.

    Shining Light on the Separation of Rare Earth Metals

    New studies identify key molecular characteristics to potentially separate rare earth metals cleanly and efficiently with light.

    Placing Atoms for Optimum Catalysts

    Precise positioning of oxygens could help engineer faster, more efficient energy-relevant chemical transformations.

    How to Make Soot and Stardust

    Scientists unlock mystery that could help reduce emissions of fine particles from combustion engines and other sources.

    Breaking the Symmetry Between Fundamental Forces

    Scientists improve our understanding of the relationship between fundamental forces by re-creating the earliest moments of the universe.

    Water Plays Unexpected Role in Forming Minerals

    Water molecules line up tiny particles to attach and form minerals; understanding how this happens impacts energy extraction and storage along with waste disposal.

    Heavy Particles Get Caught Up in the Flow

    First direct measurement show how heavy particles containing a charm quark get caught up in the flow of early universe particle soup.

    Seeing Between the Atoms

    New detector enables electron microscope imaging at record-breaking resolution.

    Scaling Up Single-Crystal Graphene

    New method can make films of atomically thin carbon that are over a foot long.

    Discovered: Optimal Magnetic Fields Suppress Instabilities in Tokamak Plasmas

    U.S. and Korean scientists show how to find and use beneficial 3-D field perturbations to stabilize dangerous edge-localized modes in plasma.


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