High-Energy Density Physics (HEDP)

A core part of our research is High Energy-Density Physics (HEDP) for fusion energy and stockpile stewardship.  Using pulsed power drivers like MAIZE and BLUE, we generate density and highly energetic plasmas using z-pinches, x-pinches, field-reversed configurations (FRCs), and dense plasma focuses (DPFs).

In a z-pinch, a plasma is generated by passing a fast current pulse through many thin metal wires. These wires are usually initially arranged in a cylindrical shell geometry. After the current pulse ablates the wire material, the strong magnetic forces resulting from the current tend to crush the plasma toward the central z axis of the shell, hence the name “z-pinch.”


Sandia National Laboratories is currently investigating the z-pinch as a possible ignition source for inertial confinement fusion. On its “Z-machine,” Sandia can achieve dense, high temperature plasmas by firing fast, 100 nanosecond current pulses exceeding 20 million amps through hundreds of tungsten wires with diameters on the order of tens of microns. In cooperation with Sandia, the NERS Department at the University of Michigan is performing experimental research related to the z-pinch. Currently, there is work being done to study the explosions of single wires, and very soon a multi-wire experiment will be up and running.

For a short tutorial on the state-of-the-art in liner implosion physics, please see this recent MIPSE seminar by Prof. McBride.