Andrew Birkel

Experimental Campaign Support (2015-2021)

LLE – Omega Target Chamber

One of my primary duties in my position at MIT as a Research Specialist was to support various experimental campaigns on the OMEGA-60 & OMEGA-EP Laser facilities. I supported both MIT led experimental campaigns, as well as institutions campaigns with MIT developed diagnostics. These two facilities are part of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) which is located at the University of Rochester.

“The Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) of the University of Rochester is a unique national resource for research and education in science and technology. LLE was established in 1970 as a center for the investigation of the interaction of intense radiation with matter. The National Nuclear Security Administration funds LLE as part of its Stockpile Stewardship Program.” — LLE Website

Experimental campaigns usually consist of a single day of shots at either of laser facilities. There are some experimental campaigns that run for multiple shot days over the course of months/years. A shot day is simply a day of experiments fielded at one of the facilities where each ‘run’ of the experiment is a described/called a ‘shot’. These shots are extremely short bursts of laser energy in a configuration specified by the Principle Investigator (PI). The number of shots one can achieve in a day is primarily constrained by two factors; (1) Cycle time – How long it takes the laser systems to cool-down before they can be safely fired again [On Omega-60; ~45 min, on OMEGA-EP ~1 hour 30 min], (2) complexity of the experimental setup and the time it takes to put new targets into the chamber and align them. Due to these constraints, a single experimental campaign will be relying on the data they get from ~8-14 experimental shots (in a single day) to discover/publish new and interesting scientific results/discoveries.

The Facility only runs experiments on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (with Monday/Friday used as maintenance days). A rough estimate of the cost to run a day of shots @ LLE is $200,000 – $300,000/day. So it is both very competitive and expensive to get time at the facility to run experiments. The diagnostics that the MIT research group fields at the LLE facility are tested and calibrated at MIT on our accelerator system. Below is a comprehensive list of the shot campaigns I have supported over the years working in the HEDP research group. [Notes: Shotdays are written OM(Year, Month, Day)]

As of 2021, when I moved on from this position, I had supported 69 experimental campaign days at LLE. To put this figure into perspective, a research group on average will be awarded 1 day a year. In my ~6 years in this role, I directly supported and contributed to a experimental campaign day almost every month. 


MIT Experimental Campaigns Supported

Experimental CampaignShot Days Scientific Objective
pProbeJet-16AOM160127Measure the effects of ambient gas on plasma jet propagation
ieRate-16AOM160413, OM170307Measure nuclear reaction and xray emission histories in SiO2 and CH exploding pusher ICF implosions. Measure x-ray continuum as a function of time for Te(t)
pProbeHolhraum OM160713, OM181128, OM210427(A)Radiography of diffusive mix, RT instability and associated E+B fields at the interface between Au wall blowoff and fill gas. (B) Radiography of interface of fill gas and plasma ablation or Au/CH blowoffs (C)X-ray images of self emissions from laser-driven Au/CH walls, (D) 2w Thomson scattering measurements of laser-driven hohlraums
ReconRateEP-16AOM160728Measure magnetic fields, reconnection and plasma flow in laser-driven Au hohlraums w/ and w/o filled gases.
DTHe3-16AOM160824Study kinetic / multi-ion-fluids effects during ICF shock burn through measurements of DT, D3He reaction histories, and x-ray emission histories
ExploPshr-16AOM160831Measure DD and D3He nuclear reaction histories in shock-driven ICF implosions
NLUF KineticsOM161214, OM170815, OM170913Study DT exploding pushers for Knudsen number (Nk) ~1 to ~15 by varying D/T capsule fill ratios and initial fill pressure
KineticT3He-17AOM170712, Om180726Study kinetic/multi-ion-fluid effects through measurements of T3He, D3He, TT, and DT yields, temperatures, histories, and burn profiles
pMagShockOM171115, OM180220,
Generate magnetized collisionless shock by driven a supersonic plasma flow into a gasbag w/ or w/o external B fields

Non-MIT Supported Campaigns

Major Campaigns

Experimental CampaignShot Days Scientific Objective
ACSEL / ACSEL-OOM160809, OM170221, OM170718, OM180501(ACSEL) Measure spatial variation in ion flow velocity of interpenetrating flow using imaging TS, (ACSEL-O) Validate the calculation of collisionless shocks in magnetized plasmas related to high altitude
TDYNOOM160810, OM170419, OM180502, OM181212,
Measure magnetic field amplification in a turbulent medium, Track development of magnetic field amplification in turbulent dynamo, measure properties of magnetized turbulence in the presence of a strong background field
SmallMagLIFOM161108, OM170207, OM171107Determine viability of D3He p probing to measure magnetic field, Measure Yield and Ion Temperature of fully-integrated MagLIF, Measure axial magnetic field evolution
AstroShockOM160811, OM161220Create a magnetized bow shock using MIFEDS wire and inflowing plasma as analog to astrophysical bow shock systems , observe how a magnetic field influences the dynamics of bow shock formation,
MagReconnectionOM170314, OM180314,
Determine the angular and spectral distribution of suprathermal electrons, Identify the source of suprathermal electrons (reconnection or, e.g., LPI), Establish a platform for studying how how suprathermal electron properties and the reconnection rate scale with plasma conditions or regimes of reconnection
MagXRSAOM171109, OM181211Characterize the influence of self-generated and externally applied magnetic fields on transport and laser coupling in x-ray source application (XRSA) targets. Quantify thermal transport inhibition in mid-Z non-equilibrium laser driven targets. Improve multi-keV line-radiation from otherwise sub-optimal plasma conditions.
MCLSWEFFECT // Debris PlasmaOM160601, OM161130, OM161018Validate the calculation of collisionless shocks in magnetized plasmas related to high altitude nuclear explosion. So far, the code is benchmarked against low Mach number plasma expansions, low plasmas density and low level of magnetization – the Omega experiments will study different regime (x2 higher in Mach number and x200 higher in magnetic fields.)
Measure magnetic fields generated by shear flow from counter-propagating shocks
• Produce high magnetic fields in quasi-hohlraums driven by large, lasergenerated currents
•Measure the field structure around the target with proton deflectometry
MagJetCollision-20AOM201013, OM210811• Study of shock formation by colliding two supersonic, magnetized jets

Single Shot Day Campaigns

Experimental CampaignShot Days Scientific Objective
ZSP-16OM160202Validate charged-particle stopping-power models relevant to HED and WDM physics in dense plasmas
Energectic NeutronsOM161011Investigate electronic component damage mechanisms at D-T fusion neutron energies during active, short pulse irradiations. Supplement model development that currently uses reactor (fission) neutrons, D-D fusion neutrons and heavy ions for damage. Collaborative effort of US/UK radiation effects on electronics experiments and modeling.
MagnetizedJetOM161129By focusing 20 OMEGA beams onto a planar foil, we aim to create a ring of plasma and therefore a magnetized jet in the center. The goal is to measure the jet properties such as density, temperature, velocity and magnetic fields.
Nernst DynamoOM161201Measure magnetic field compression (Nernst) and twisting (dynamo) due to heat flow by heating the edge of a disk with an applied axial magnetic field
Kinetic DynamicsOM170118This experimental will use proton radiography to measure the electric field structure associated with a strong shock in low-density, single- and multi-species plasmas. This study investigates kinetic physics and dynamics of plasmas relevant to ICF, HED and Astrophysical sciences. Results will be used for code and theory validation of plasma conditions in multi-species plasmas, which will in turn be used to evaluate impact of kinetic effects on the initial conditions for ICF compression and burn.
dEdXOM170124Measure stopping power of D3He alphas and protons in wellcharacterized shock-heated foam.
RelePlasmaOM170609The main goal of the is campaign is to make a systematic investigation of relativistic electrons propagation and energy deposition in a pre-assembled cylindrical plasma under controlled conditions of density and temperature with and without external magnetic field. The campaign will be spit is two experimental days and the first experimental day will be use to characterize the pre-assembled cylindrical implosion with and without magnetic field using as main diagnostics proton radiography and Cl absorption spectroscopy.
Marble-VC-17BOM170615Primary goal is to radiograph shock-pore interaction and compare with simulation. Secondary goal is to probe magnetic field production anticipated during the shock-pore interaction.
DynMagReconnectionOM171114Measure temperature, density, and magnetic topology of single and reconnecting high-Mach number plasmas expanding into a magnetized ambient plasma.
UK Hydro-KineticsOm180315The purpose of this experiment is to generate a large, hot, ablation plasma with characteristics as close to NIF direct drive ignition scale as possible and test hydro simulations result in significantly increasing laser absorption which will increase ablation plasma density scale length and electron temperature.
IonSepPlasmaOM180503Mapping transition between the collisional and collisionless regimes in laboratory astrophysics experiments using material of varying Z to change the collisionality. The plasma will be characterized with Thomson Scattering.
HEDBOM181213Measure magnetic fields generated by shear flow from counter-propagating shocks
SuperNovaShock-19AOM190820Determine the evolution of the Non-Resonant Hybrid instability driven by a
proton beam into a turbulent magnetized plasma
TurbulentTransMagOM191107Verify the existence of anomalously-fast turbulent cross-field transport in HED plasmas
and quantify the diffusion rate by measuring magnetic field and plasma parameters
MagHolhMultiPBL-20AOM200212• Produce Biermann-battery magnetic fields with foils
•Measure the field structure around the target with proton and deuteron
Ejecta-O-20BOM200310• Characterize the transport and interactions of
laser-driven ejecta particles
• Develop new platforms and establish
diagnostics to study ejecta interactions
MagXRSA-20AOM200311• Characterize influence of self-generated/external B-fields on transport/coupling in
x-ray source applications (XRSA) targets
• Supports XRSA source development
• Continuation of study from MagXRSA-18A (~10 T) & MagXRSA-19A (~20 T)
LsrCapCoils-20A-AIBSOM201014Drive magnetic reconnection with laser-powered capacitor coils.
– Diagnose magnetic field structure using the proton radiography
– Measure plasma density and temperature between the coils using Thomson scattering
– Detect the reconnection-accelerated electrons and the induced x-rays.
BCoilCompress-20AOM201104Two dimensional Gorgon MHD simulations of magnetized cylindrical implosions using a seed B-field of 50 T predict
a compressed B-field above 10 kT (>40 kT over the central 5 µm) and a ~50% neutron yield increase compared to the
non-magnetized case
MagShockHeat-AIBS-21AOM210126• To measure ion and electron heating across high-Mach-number, magnetized
collisionless shocks as a function of upstream parameters (density, magnetic field, etc)
snShock-J-21AOM211110• Determine the evolution of the Non-Resonant
Hybrid instability driven by a proton beam into a
turbulent magnetized plasma