Dr. Richard Petrasso is a Senior Scientist and co-originator and Division Head of High-Energy-Density Physics at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at MIT. With colleagues and students, he has coauthored over 200 technical papers on plasma physics. His recent 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 monoenergetic particles and associated 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 of 4 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 5 NIF nuclear diagnostics, with which fuel and shell areal density, implosion symmetry, ion temperature, proton bang time (from D3He implosion reactions), and primary yield are discerned. His recent PhD student, Dr. Mario Manuel, was just awarded the highly prestigious and coveted Marshall Rosenbluth Outstanding Doctoral Thesis award by the APS Division of Plasma Physics.
He is also the chair, and co-originator, of the OMEGA Laser Users Group (OLUG), which is comprised of over 400 scientists, students, postdocs from 44 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 transfer and utilize platforms developed at OMEGA to the National Ignition Facility (NIF) as well as to more modest facilities.
In 2013 he received the prestigious Edward Teller Medal, which recognizes pioneering research and leadership in the use of laser and ion-particle beams to produce extraordinarily high-temperature and high-density matter for scientific research and for controlled thermonuclear fusion. His citation for the award reads: “for pioneering the use of nuclear diagnostics for understanding inertial confinement fusion implosions and high-energy-density physics.” He is also a Fellow of the American Physical Society (2006).
He received his PhD from Brandeis University in experimental atomic physics in 1972, and his B.S. from Oregon State University in 1967