Nuclear and Particle Futures
The Lab's four Science Pillars harness capabilities for solutions to threats—
on national and global scales.
- Pillar Champion
- John Sarrao
Los Alamos is the premier laboratory in the United States for “all-things nuclear,” with capabilities that are grounded in its LANSCE and DARHT facilities, its leadership in critical assembly work (now in Nevada), and extensive capabilities in nuclear experiment, theory, and simulation.
The Nuclear and Particle Futures (NPF) pillar is composed of four major thrusts:
- Nuclear, Particle, Astrophysics, and Cosmology (NPAC),
- Applied Nuclear Science and Engineering (ANSE),
- High Energy Density Plasmas and Fluids (HEDPF), and
- Accelerators and Electrodynamics (AE).
NPF Pillar Strategy
The NPF pillar strategy focuses on the research required to maintain Los Alamos as the premier laboratory in United States for “all things nuclear.” The pillar research will enhance the scientific contributions to the major programmatic themes of Los Alamos: weapons, global security, and Office of Science research.
The four thrusts of the NPF pillar provide the underlying fundamental research and technological developments crucial to successfully advance Defense Programs weapons research, the nuclear component of Global Security, and the pursuit of high priority fundamental research as identified in the strategic plans of Office of Science programs in Nuclear Physics, High Energy Physics, and Fusion Energy Sciences.
Los Alamos Areas of Leadership in NPF
The complexity of nuclear weapons is such that expertise in many fields of physics and material science is required for a deep understanding of the current stockpile and how the stockpile will evolve in the future, encompassing both deliberately chosen modifications as well as natural changes with age.
A fundamental understanding of the nuclear and plasma physics and their coupling under extreme conditions is needed to fully predict the behavior of dynamically assembled, fissioning systems. Neutron, and charged-particle transport and the associated cross sections need to be well in hand to understand the nuclear burn and boost processes, and to maximize the physics extracted from diagnostics. Understanding the high energy density plasma physics issues and fluid-like behaviors that drive the time evolution of a weapon is key to understanding nuclear performance. Complex material science and hydrodynamical mixing processes further complicate the physics.
NPAC develops enabling science ideas and drives technological developments. ANSE takes direct advantage of these developments to investigate new ideas of relevance to weapons research and threat reduction.
HEDPF studies physics issues in the plasma regimes that can be created by the fission/fusion process and must take into account the interplay between the processes in burning plasmas. All of these activities benefit from advances driven by AE, which is also a key research area that supports MaRIE and our radiographic capabilities.
Historical Roots of the NPF Pillar
Los Alamos has a well-known deep history in nuclear and particle science, in high energy density physics and fluids, and in accelerator technologies.
Many of the seminal discoveries in neutron physics and fission were made at the Laboratory during the Manhattan project, the neutrino was discovered by Los Alamos researchers, and the Laboratory to this day is recognized as the leading Laboratory in the United States for such N&PF research.
Numerous breakthoughs in high-energy density physics and fluids had their origins in Los Alamos research, ranging from the first thermonuclear devices, to the discovery of fluid hydrodynamic instabilities.