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Podcast: Supercomputing Better Ways to Produce Gamma Rays

Snapshot of a 3D simulation shows in rainbow colors the photon burst as laser comes in from the left. Magnetic field (red) generated in the plasma coils around the axis and accompanies the gamma ray emission to the right (yellow and green).

Snapshot of a 3D simulation shows in rainbow colors the photon burst as laser comes in from the left. Magnetic field (red) generated in the plasma coils around the axis and accompanies the gamma ray emission to the right (yellow and green).

In this podcast, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin discuss how they are using TACC supercomputers to find a new way to make controlled beams of gamma rays.

“The simulations done on the Stampede and Lonestar systems at TACC will guide a real experiment later this summer in 2016 with the recently upgraded Texas Petawatt Laser, one of the most powerful in the world. The scientists say the quest for producing gamma rays from non-radioactive materials will advance basic understanding of things like the inside of stars. What’s more, gamma rays are used by hospitals to eradicate cancer, image the brain, and they’re used to scan cargo containers for terrorist materials. Unfortunately no one has yet been able to produce gamma ray beams from non-radioactive sources. These scientists hope to change that.”

On the podcast are the three researchers who published their work May of 2016 in the journal Physical Review Letters. Alex Arefiev is a research scientist at the Institute for Fusion Studies and at the Center for High Energy Density Science at UT Austin. Toma Toncian is the assistant director of the Center of High Energy Density Science. And the lead author is David Stark, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Jorge Salazar hosted the podcast.

TACC supercomputers might have helped unlock a new way to make controlled beams of gamma rays from a laser that fits on a table-top, according to research physicist Alex Arefiev, who has a dual appointment at the Institute for Fusion Studies and at the Center for High Energy Density Science at UT Austin. Arefiev co-authored the study, “Enhanced multi-MeV photon emission by a laser-driven electron beam in a self-generated magnetic field,” published May 2016 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

One of the key results that we found is that a laser pulse can be efficiently converted into a beam of very energetic photons,” Arefiev said. “They are more than one million times more energetic than the photons in the laser pulse. Until recently, there hasn’t been a method for producing a beam of such energetic photons. So the proposed regime can be groundbreaking for a number of applications and also for fundamental science studies.”

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