Sandia National Laboratories researcher Daniel Sinars demonstrates the setup he and his team created to peer into the center of Sandia's Z machine at the moment of firing. The crystal under his finger is attached to portions of a Z target configuration.
Describing the maelstrom of X-rays released when Sandia National Laboratories’ Z machine fires, Daniel Sinars says, simply, “The energies in there are insane.” Other than a nuclear bomb, Z is the most powerful generator of X-rays on the planet. Last year, its central mechanism, called a Z-pinch, fused isotopes of hydrogen to create nuclear fusion.
Peering into the center of Z as it fires had been a feat unachievable for a decade, but now, by inserting a two-inch-long crystal that reflects only a single frequency, Sinars’ Z-Pinch Experiments and Advanced Diagnostics group has managed to visually filter out the bedlam of more than 99 percent of the energies generated by Z.
By viewing the dissolution of a wire cage about the size of a spool of thread into ionized gas particles nanosecond by nanosecond, Z experimentalists will be able to understand more rapidly and accurately how changes to the wire array will affect the final outcome, in order to fine-tune Z’s driving forces.
These alterations will achieve still more powerful outputs for weapons studies and, eventually, controlled nuclear fusion that could produce unlimited energy from seawater.
Describing Sinars’ work, Pulsed Power Sciences Center Director Jeff Quintenz says, “It’s like being able to find a grain of sand in a sand pile, or a single voice in a crowded coliseum.”
Sinars’ interest in science was sharpened when he attended the Illinois Math and Science Academy, a magnet school in Aurora, Ill. He earned an undergraduate degree in engineering physics at the University of Oklahoma and his doctorate in applied physics at Cornell. He went to Sandia directly from Cornell.
Says Cornell physics professor and Sinars mentor David Hammer, “Dan has extended backlighting work done elsewhere, but he has done so in the most extremely difficult environment. His implementation had to be novel to make it work.”
Submitted by DOE's
Sandia National Laboratories