Apker-Award-Winning Research Continues: A Video Ride-Along

Physics students Tyler Kowalewski ’21 and Steven Raymond ’20 traveled to the the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) recently to continue the research begun by Apker Award winner, Katelyn Cook ’19. The research focuses on inertial confinement fusion (ICF), and we asked them to take us along for the ride. What follows is a 4-part video experience that takes us right into the lab with Steven and Tyler explaining it to us as we go.

What is ICF?

Before the show begins, a review: ICF is an experimental method of studying low-energy nuclear reactions, allowing reactions to be studied that would be impossible to measure using particle accelerators. By firing numerous lasers at a tiny pellet of fuel from all sides, ICF causes incredible compression, temperature and density–similar to the conditions inside a star, albeit on a much smaller scale, and for a span of less than a nanosecond.

Grab your popcorn, everybody–Steven kicks off part one of our video experience:

Even though this looks like a movie set from a sci-fi film, we promise that this is real research with real-world potential!

Tyler comes to us from the command center at LLE giving us more insight into their experiment:

The capacitor they just mentioned may not be from Back to the Future, but the data they collect could have an affect on the future of energy:

Why do ICF research?

According to Houghton physics professor Mark Yuly, ICF is a significant area of physics research because it opens the door for physicists to study nuclear reactions that have never been measured before: for example, the reactions that take place inside stars. Another reason it is significant? Scientists engaged in this research are interested in finding a way for ICF to reach ignition. If the process can be engineered successfully through ICF, it has enormous potential as an energy source.

That’s all for now, but we look forward to new insights that are gathered from the data that this team was able to collect during this experiment. We hope you have enjoyed this peek into the real-life research being done by Houghton students and can’t wait to report back again in the coming months with their discoveries.