The Wootton Center for Astrophysical Plasma Properties

Unprecedented to name a DOE/NNSA Center of Excellence after someone … but in this case all the executives agree it is appropriate – tell origin story describing Alan’s central role, his vision!

The Wootton Center for Astrophysical Plasma Properties (WCAPP) will focus on atomic and radiation physics of matter in a wide range of temperatures and densities. Although motivated by astrophysics, the Center will address problems of interest for stockpile stewardship, ICF, HED physics and astrophysics. The CAPP team will use spectra at wavelengths from X-ray to optical to diagnose plasmas and compare with observations of astrophysical objects and similar plasmas. This work will have a strong experimental emphasis but incorporate a range of theorists and modelers for code validation. This will sharpen the scientific impact of the experiments and their contribution to NNSA.

Our team will include university, National Laboratory, and NASA scientists. These scientists, with diverse specialties, represent all career stages from the most junior to the most senior. Through immersive, team building interactions before, during, and after Z-shot series at SNL, observations at McDonald Observatory, and meetings, the students, postdocs, and junior faculty will grow as scientists. They will be introduced in a practical way to the atmosphere, work environment, and opportunities of National Laboratories. Students will be recruited through interest in astrophysics, extreme physics, and/or energy science. Hence, the Center will contribute to produce a pool of potential candidates for employment in NNSA National Laboratories.

Project Objectives

The conditions that exist inside stars and accretion disks around compact objects have similarities and direct implications for many ICF and HED experiments carried out on the NNSA's National facilities. At lower temperatures, the validation of spectral models used to interpret the conditions of white dwarf stars are directly applicable to studying the plasmas formed in the power-flow region on Z. We create macroscopic plasmas and study their time evolution, including transitions from strong non-equilibrium conditions evolving into equilibrium during a single shot. New experiments motivate new platforms, diagnostics, and developments in theory and modeling. These aid the programmatic NNSA missions of the facility through amplified capabilities; the multi-experiment approach increases efficiency by factors of 4 to 5.

The CAPP directly addresses the need to develop a cadre of top researchers in areas of atomic physics and radiation transport by concentrating on atomic processes and spectroscopy in plasmas that are at HED conditions and/or are bathed in strong x-ray radiation fields. CAPP will create a layered-mentoring approach that will guarantee a nurturing but challenging atmosphere that will yield a steady pipeline of talented young scientists. This center will be a training ground for future stewards of the NNSA mission.

Administrative Function of CAPP

This center was established to provide continued funding of these long-term projects, including graduate student education. We are currently seeking potential graduate students and postdocs, as well as other collaborators. Projects are not limited to the ones listed, or to the facilities or universities that are already involved in the project. Work within the center may involve both travel and telecommuting to the facility where the experiment is performed (such as SNL).

Current funding allows for up to 6 graduate students and 3 postdocs. In addition to SNL, we plan to perform experiments at other facilities, including the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. We are also seeking additional projects to perform at these facilities that can explore other important astrophysical problems. The graduate students and postdocs that work with us will be exposed to research opportunities at the National Laboratories.


The WCAPP is supported through the NNSA Stockpile Stewardship Academic Alliance program funded by the DOE through grant DE-FOA-0001634. Aspects of the white dwarf science are additionally supported by the NSF under grant AST-1312983.