University of Rochester

Riccardo Betti Wins Edward Teller Medal for Fusion Research

September 9, 2009

Riccardo Betti, senior scientist in laser energetics, professor of mechanical engineering and physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester and director of the Fusion Science Center for Extreme States of Matter, has won the Edward Teller Medal for his research into laser-driven fusion at the University's Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE).

The award is named after Edward Teller, the co-founder of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and one of the key designers of the hydrogen bomb. Only two honorees are chosen to receive the award every other year. Betti will be presented with a silver medal and $2,000 on Sept. 10 at the International Conference on Inertial Fusion Sciences and Applications in San Francisco, Calif.

"Riccardo is richly deserving of this honor," says Robert L. McCrory, director of the LLE and 1995 Edward Teller medalist. "He is internationally recognized for his seminal contributions to thermonuclear ignition in inertial confinement fusion. The combination of his scientific contributions and his education and mentoring of students is an exemplary example of what the Teller Medal was established to recognize."

Betti studies how to perfect laser-driven fusion at the LLE using Omega, one of the most powerful lasers in the world. As director of the Fusion Science Center, Betti researches the development of new fusion methods to learn more about relativistic laser-matter interactions, which are important in our quest to make fusion a viable energy source for the future, he says. He is currently leading a national team of fusion experts from M.I.T., General Atomics, University of California at San Diego, Ohio State University, UCLA, University of Nevada at Reno, and the University of Texas at Austin, in an effort to develop a new method of creating fusion with ultra-high-power lasers like the Omega.

The University's Omega laser produces fusion by striking a small pellet of hydrogen with laser beams that use 10 times as much power in a billionth of a second as the entire nation's power grid. The laser both compresses and heats the pellet, producing fusion, but in the new center, Betti and other scientists explore whether more energy can be derived if the heating and compression components of the process are separated. After compressing the pellet with the original Omega laser beams, the new, even more powerful Omega EP beams fire an ultra-brief burst of energy, heating the pellet and releasing the energy.

Betti joined the University of Rochester in 1991, after receiving his doctoral degree in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was elected fellow of the American Physical Society in 2001 and has served as vice chair of the U.S. Department of Energy Fusion Energy Science Advisory Committee, chair of the DOE High Energy-Density Laboratory Plasmas panel, and chair of the Plasma Science Committee of the National Academies.

Established in 1991, the Teller Award recognizes pioneering research and leadership in the use of laser and ion-particle beams to produce unique high-temperature and high-density matter for scientific research and for controlled thermonuclear fusion.