Richard D. Petrasso

Richard D. Petrasso

Senior Scientist

Head, High-Energy-Density Physics

617-253 8458




PhD Brandeis University
BS Oregon State University


Inertial confinement fusion; high-energy-density physics; plasma diagnostics; laboratory astrophysics.


• Edward Teller Medal, 2013. The Medal recognizes pioneering research and leadership in inertial fusion sciences and applications
• Fellow, American Physical Society


With colleagues and students, Dr. Richard Petrasso has coauthored over 300 technical papers on plasma physics. His work focuses on utilizing nuclear reactions and products for illuminating the basic physics of inertial confinement implosions and of high-energy-density laser-plasmas. In this work he, colleagues and students have utilized nuclear particles and reactions to discern fields, areal densities, asymmetries, and other important plasma properties of transient high-energy-density plasmas, be they reconnecting plasmas or directly or indirectly driven implosions.

Currently he is the PhD advisor to 5 MIT students who, in addition to working on projects and experiments focused on the Omega facility, are deeply involved in the fielding and analysis of 8 National Ignition Facility (NIF) nuclear diagnostics, with which fuel and shell areal density, implosion symmetry, ion temperature, shock and compression bang times (from D3He implosion reactions), and primary yield are discerned. Reflecting this involvement, 4 recent PhD students, Drs. Daniel Casey, Michael Rosenberg, Hans Rinderknecht, and Alex Zylstra, were the first students to ever utilize, analyze, and include, as essential elements and chapters in their PhD theses, data from the NIF. This research was a result of the NIF-MIT PhD Program, in which 6 new graduate students are now actively participating.  Largely on the basis of his PhD work at Omega and the NIF, Dr. Rinderknecht was awarded in 2015 a prestigious three-year postdoctoral Lawrence fellowship at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  Dr. Zylstra, also largely on the basis of his PhD research at Omega and the NIF, was awarded in 2015 a prestigious three-year postdoctoral Reines Fellowship at the Los Alamos National Lab.  In addition, PhD student, Dr. Mario Manuel, was awarded in 2014 the highly singular and coveted Marshall Rosenbluth Outstanding Doctoral Thesis award by the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics.  Mario is the first PhD student supported by NNSA/DOE grants to ever receive this award. Mario also received a NASA Einstein Postdoctoral Fellowship.  Just recently, on the basis of his outstanding PhD research on the hydro-to-kinetic transition in implosions at Omega and the NIF, Dr. Rosenberg was selected for the 2016 Rosenbluth Outstanding Doctoral Thesis award.

Dr. Petrasso is chair and co-originator of the Omega Laser Users Group (OLUG), which is comprised of over 400 scientists, students, postdocs from 55 universities, 25 Centers and National Laboratories, and 15 different countries. OLUG seeks, with the strong participation of students and young researchers, to promote collaborations among Omega users, to facilitate novel physics experiments at the Omega facility, and to utilize and transfer platforms developed at Omega to the National Ignition Facility as well as to more modest facilities.  In achieving these goals, OLUG partners closely with the management and technical staff of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics.

HEDP Division website


A.B. Zylstra, et al., "Measurement of charged-particle stopping in warm-dense plasma", Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 215002 (2015).

Hans G. Rinderknecht, et al., "Ion Thermal Decoupling and Species Separation in Shock-Driven Implosions", Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 025001 (2015).

M.J. Rosenberg, et al., "Slowing of Magnetic Reconnection Concurrent with Weakening Plasma Inflows and Increasing Collisionality in Strongly-Driven Laser-Plasma Experiments", Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 205004 (2015).

M.J. Rosenberg, et al., "A Laboratory Study of Asymmetric Magnetic Reconnection in Strongly-Driven Plasmas", Nat. Commun. 2015, 6:6190.

M.J. Rosenberg, et al., "Exploration of the Transition from the Hydrodynamic-like to the Strongly Kinetic Regime in Shock-Driven Implosions", Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 185001 (2014).

H.G. Rinderknecht, et al., "First Observations of Nonhydrodynamic Mix at the Fuel-Shell Interface in Shock-Driven Inertial Confinement Implosions", Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 135001 (2014).

C.K. Li, et al., "Structure and Dynamics of Colliding Plasma Jets", Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 235003 (2013).


Browse full list published and submitted HEDP Division papers HERE.