First-Ever 3D Kinetic Simulations Enabled by Petascale Computing
A recent article in Physical Review Letters* is the result of extensive analysis of “Science at Scale” calculations during the stabilization and open science phases of Roadrunner. Enabled by petascale computing, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) discovered a new class of laser-generated ion sources that can be used to resolve fundamental uncertainties in weapons physics codes.
This work explored for the first time the complex three-dimensional nature of a revolutionary new class of laser-ion accelerators, the “Breakout Afterburner” (BOA), that was discovered by the authors. Analysis of these surprisingly rich dynamics led to a result that overturned decades of conventional wisdom about symmetry breaking in the interaction of a high-intensity laser with plasma. The BOA mechanism was discovered in kinetic simulations using the authors’ VPIC code and was experimentally realized in recent experiments at the Trident laser facility at LANL.The BOA leads to laser-ion acceleration with (for the same laser intensity and spot size) order-of-magnitude higher ion energy and laser-to-ion conversion efficiency than conventional laser-accelerators, while at the same time making quasi-monoenergetic beams, as needed for applications such as weapons science experiments, ion-based “fast ignition” inertial fusion energy, and hadrontherapy of tumors. To find the article online, go to www.doi.org and type DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.045003.
*L. Yin, B. Albright, K. Bowers, et al., “Three-dimensional dynamics of breakout afterburner ion acceleration using high-contrast short-pulse laser and nanoscale targets,” PRL 107, 045003 (2011).