Welcome to the Plasma, Pulsed Power, and Microwave Laboratory (PPML)

PPML is home to pulsed power for high-energy-density physics (HEDP) and high-power microwaves (HPM) research at the University of Michigan. Driving these experiments are some of the most powerful pulsed power machines at any university. Applications include nuclear fusion, radiation source development, material properties experiments, laboratory astrophysics, and more!

Recent News & Highlights:

Mar 2024 – Graduate student Trevor Smith was awarded the Best Poster Award at the NNSA SSAP Symposium for his work, “Understanding electrode plasma formation on wires and thin foils via vacuum ultraviolet spectroscopy of desorbed surface contaminants”

Jan 2023 – Congratulations to both Professor Lau and Professor Gilgenbach on their recent retirements! Professor Gilgenbach’s career was highlighted in a recent NERS article.

Sept 2023 – Professor Lau’s paper (Lau, Li, Chernin, “On the Child-Langmuir Law in One, Two, and Three Dimensions”, PoP) was selected as an Editor’s Pick.

July 2023 – Professor Lau’s paper (D. Chernin, Y. Y. Lau, J. J. Petillo, S. Ovtchinnikov, D. Chen, A. Jassem, R. Jacobs, D. Morgan, and J. H. Booske, “Effect of Nonuniform Emission on Miram Curves,” IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 146–155, Jan. 2020) was selected as the 2023 IEEE TPS Best Paper.

June 2023 – In honor of Ron and YY’s retirements, we held a UM reunion at this year’s 50th ICOPS in Albuquerque, NM, and captured a picture of all the past students who were able to attend.

Bottom row (from left): Dion Li, Landon Tafoya, Ryan Revolinsky, Joe Chen, Chi Hong Ching, Bill Cohen, Roger Lindley, Matt Franzi, Mark Johnston, Peng Zhang, Scott Kovaleski, Tom Spencer, Nick Jordan, Sara Kovaleski, John Luginsland, Tony Valenzuela (behind John), Tom Mehlhorn, Ron Gilgenbach, YY Lau, John Booske, Matt Gomez, Mike Cuneo, Mike Lopez, Brad Hoff, Chris Swenson, Agust Valfells, Patrick Wong, Allen Garner, Steve Shannon, Ricky Ang
Top Row: Trevor Smith, Nick Ramey, Ashwin Rao, Jeff Woolstrum, Emma Guerin, Paul Campbell, Joe Schumer, Adam Steiner, Stephen Langellotti, Drew Packard, Adam Brusstar, Ian Rittersdorf

June 2023 – Professor McBride was awarded a 5-year NNSA Center of Excellence totaling $14.5 million in funding. Learn more about the Center for Magnetic Acceleration, Compression, and Heating (MACH) here.

November 2022 – Undergraduate researcher Dion Li was awarded the 2023 IEEE NPSS Igor Alexeff Outstanding Student in Plasma Science Award

February 2022 – Undergraduate researcher Dion Li was awarded the $10,000 Henry Ford II prize, a UM CoE-wide award for the outstanding junior who has demonstrated academic excellence.

December 2021 – Graduate student Brendan Sporer was awarded Best Student Paper at the 2021 Pulsed Power Conference for his poster presentation (B.J. Sporer, A.P. Shah, G.V. Dowhan, S.A. Slutz, G.A. Shipley, N.M. Jordan, R.D. McBride, “High-Density, High-Field FRC Formation Studies using the MAIZE Linear Transformer Driver”, PPC/SOFE, Denver, CO, Dec 2021).

November 2021 – Undergraduate researcher Dion Li was selected for a Best Presentation Award at the MIPSE Graduate Symposium, for his poster presentation (D. Li, D. Chernin, and Y. Y. Lau, “A Relativistic and Electromagnetic Correction to the Ramo-Shockley Theorem”, MIPSE 2021 Graduate Symposium, Ann Arbor, MI, Nov. 2021).

September 2021 – Undergraduate researcher Dion Li was awarded the Best Student Paper at ICOPS, for his oral presentation (D. Li, D. Chernin, Y. Y. Lau, “Electromagnetic and Relativistic Corrections to the Ramo-Shockley Theorem”, ICOPS 2021, Sep 2021.).

June 2021 – Prof. McBride’s pulsed power primer paper (R. D. McBride, et al., “A Primer on Pulsed Power and Linear Transformer Drivers for High Energy Density Physics Applications,” IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, vol. 46, no. 11, pp. 3928–3967, Nov. 2018.) was selected as the 2021 IEEE TPS Best Paper.

May 2021 – Prof. McBride was granted tenure in the Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences department, and named Director of the Plasma, Pulsed Power, and Microwave Lab.

Sept 2020 – Dr. Jordan was promoted to Associate Research Scientist.

Prof. McBride was awarded a Department of Energy Early Career Award on The Physics of Micro-Pinches in 2019 and an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award for High-Power Microwave Generation by Compact Linear Transformer Driver Technology in 2018.

Overview of PPML:

Our students explore the physics and applications of high-energy-density plasmas (HEDP) and intense pulsed power accelerators, electron beam, and microwave generators.

 The Michigan Electron Long Beam Accelerator (MELBA) is a Marx generator capable of producing a 10 kA electron beam at 1 MV for as long as 1 µs. This accelerator, the first of its kind in the U.S., utilizes a unique compensation circuit which regulates the voltage, creating a pseudo-square pulse for microwave generation and other experiments.  Currently, MELBA drives relativistic magnetron experiments, specifically the Recirculating Planar Magnetron (RPM), a new type of high power microwave source invented at the University of Michigan.  The RPM has potential applications in radar, counter-IED, and counter-electronics, and is of great interest to government labs like Air Force Research Laboratory.

The PPML is also home to the Michigan Accelerator for Inductive Z-Pinch Experiments (MAIZE). MAIZE is a relatively new pulsed power technology known as a Linear Transformer Driver (LTD), and is capable of producing 1 MA pulses with a 100 ns risetime at a load voltage of 100 kV.  MAIZE is the highest-current LTD at any American university, and was also the first of its kind in the U.S.   This technology is enabling university-scale studies of imploding wires and foils, commonly known as a z-pinch.  By rapidly driving large currents through a thin metallic foil or wire array, plasma is created which accelerates radially inward.  Using a 2 ns, 100 mJ Nd:YAG laser and a 200 million frame per second intensified camera, we are able to track the evolution of instabilities on the edge of this imploding plasma column in a 12-frame “movie”.  This research on plasma instability development and mitigation is helping fusion concepts (like Sandia National Laboratory’s MagLIF) improve implosion uniformity and increase neutron yields.

The PPML experiments on Z-pinch and high-power microwaves have been strongly supported by theoretical and simulation studies in all phases, including formulation, design, interpretation, and journal publication. Related areas of technological importance are also theoretically studied, such as electrical and thermal contacts, and high frequency vacuum electronics and nanoelectronics.