CCP Flagship: A radiation-hydrodynamics code for the UK laser-plasma community

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

The interaction of high-power lasers with solids generates an ionised material - a plasma. Such plasmas are being studied in laboratory experiments worldwide for a variety of reasons. Beyond this fundamental interest in the nature of plasmas is the possibility that laser-plasmas may lead to technological breakthroughs of significant importance. Foremost amongst these possible technologies is using laser-driven plasmas as a source of energy via fusion. Fusion offers the prospect of limitless energy with near zero carbon emission and no long-lived radiative waste. This would revolutionise the world energy markets and potential secure a base load energy supply for the UK independent of imports. Additionally maintaining a UK lead in this field also would allow UK high-tech industries to profit from involvement in fusion science.

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) in the US is making significant progress towards the goal of laser-driven fusion and a similar size facility in France, the LaserMegaJoule (LMJ), will soon be completed. Alternative approaches to laser-driven fusion are being pursued in Japan, France, UK and USA. Worldwide this represents billions of dollars of investment. UK plasma scientists have maintained a leading international role in these theoretical and experimental developments. In order to maintain that roll the UK needs to be internationally competitive in both theory and experiments. However to field experiments on NIF or LMJ the design of the experiment, laser configuration, target properties and diagnostics must all be simulated first. This requires a special form of fluid simulation code called a radiation-hydrodynamics code. Such codes model the properties of the fluid-like plasma and, crucially, the energy transported through the plasma via the strong electromagnetic radiation field resulting from the laser, plasma compression and heating. UK academia has no such code and is in danger of loosing its international lead as a result. This proposal is to develop a radiation-hydrodynamics code (Odin) capable of designing fusion pellets, diagnostics and advance fusion ignition schemes.

The type of radiation-hydrodynamics code that is needed for fusion research would be based around an scheme called Arbitrary Lagrangian Euler (ALE). Developing the Odin ALE code is a major undertaking. Odin would also have direct applications to other branches of laser-plasma physics. There are experiments being run, and planned, which aim to generate proton and carbon beams for medical treatments. Such ion-beam therapy is possible now but the potential exists to reduce the cost and size of equipment needed and have more control. Crucial to optimising such laser accelerators is an understanding of the plasma that first forms in front of the target before the main laser pulse arrives. This so called pre-plasma cannot be easily measured experimentally but it could be accurately simulated by the Odin code. Thus Odin would directly contribute to research in laser-plasma based proton accelerators. Pre-plasmas are also a serious issue for very high-power laser experiments, such as the EU funded Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI), which aim to access the QED-plasma regime.

The Odin code will be used for decades by UK researchers. It is therefore essential that this code is sustainable and adaptable to the emerging hardware in high-performance computing. Computer scientists, as well as plasma physicists, will therefore collaborate in the development of the Odin code to ensure it is optimised for current and next generation computers and benefits from the advances in both physics and computer science. The UK Computational Collaborative Project in Plasma Physics (CCPP) will manage the whole project and the code made available to all UK based plasma researchers.

Publications

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Description We have determined the best non-local thermal transport model to use in a radiation hydrodynamics code. We have determined how to include a full description of magnetic field evolution in a radiation hydrodynamics code.
Exploitation Route Non-local transport modules are prevalent in radiation hydrodynamics codes used to simulate laser-plasma interactions and inertial confinement fusion. We have suggested simple ways to improve their accuracy which can easily be implemented in these codes.
The new magnetohydrodynamics modules in the code can be used to simulate new experiments with potential impacts ranging from inertial fusion energy (using magnetic fields to enhance fusion yields) to laboratory astrophysics (designing experiments to simulate magnetized shocks)
Sectors Energy

 
Description EUROFusion Inertial Fusion Energy Keep In Touch 2017
Amount € 378,499 (EUR)
Organisation EUROfusion 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2018
 
Description LLNL Academic Partnerships in ICF
Amount $472,000 (USD)
Organisation Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 
Sector Public
Country United States
Start 10/2016 
End 09/2020
 
Description Non-local transport LLNL 
Organisation Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Benchmarking numerical model for non-local heat transport in the multiphysics code HYDRA used to simulate experiments on the National Ignition Facility (a major unknown in hohlraum energetics)
Collaborator Contribution Use of HYDRA. Access to large computing resources at LLNL
Impact None yet
Start Year 2013