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.
Our students explore the physics and applications of high-energy-density plasmas (HEDP) and intense pulsed power accelerators, electron beam, and microwave generators.
The Plasma, Pulsed Power, and Microwave Laboratory (PPML) is the center of high energy density plasma and high power microwave research. Driving these experiments are some of the most powerful pulsed power machines at any university.
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.