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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: March 3, 2003
Volume 38, Number 15

Pulsed Power lab receives worldwide attention

By Michael Padilla

The UNM Pulsed Power, Beams and Microwaves Laboratory may sound complex but the mission is simple: To educate, perform basic research, encourage undergraduate participation and collaborate with national and international groups.

“Our principal mission is education,” said Edl Schamiloglu, laboratory director and Gardner-Zemke Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE).

The laboratory, founded in 1989, is one of only a handful at universities throughout the country performing basic research on pulsed power, intense beams and their applications. The lab receives national and international attention and has been utilized by numerous visiting scientists worldwide including Russia, Germany, Japan, India, Israel and others.

The laboratory is engaged in on-going research with numerous international organizations. Leading-edge research is most successfully performed in collaborations where each party both contributes and benefits, Schamiloglu said.

“No one group can be an expert in all facets of a complicated problem,” he said. “By collaborating with engineers and scientists that have complementary capabilities, new approaches emerge and we pursue them jointly.”

The research performed in the laboratory can be categorized, “High Energy Density Plasma Physics.” The broad title covers on-going research such as Sandia National Laboratories’ “Z”-accelerator, Los Alamos National Laboratory’s “Atlas” project, and the “Shiva,” and high power microwave research at the Air Force Research Laboratory. It also includes the intense beam and high power microwave research performed at UNM.

“What is important to realize is that New Mexico is host to the most significant amount of research in this technical area in the country.” Schamiloglu said. “It is only natural that UNM, which basically sits in the geographic hub of this activity, has a significant presence in this discipline.”

At present, Schamiloglu’s group within the Applied Electromagnetics Area of the ECE Department has five federally-funded research programs. The first is studying the generation of high power microwaves. Second is understanding how novel materials and topologies can lead to more compact sources of pulsed power —pulsed power is an enabling technology common to all high energy density plasma physics research. Third is using low power microwaves to measure the velocity profile of accelerating objects. The fourth is understanding the behavior of a variety of materials influenced by bombarding electrons, and the final project explores how to take extremely high current relativistic electron beams and focus them onto as small a spot size as possible.

The team of researchers in the Applied Elecromagnetics area include ECE assistant professors Scott Tyo and Mark Gilmore. Tyo, a co-principal (co-PI) investigator on the compact pulsed power Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program, is also building a program pertaining to polarimetric imaging. Gilmore, new to the department, is building a program in magnetic confinement and inertial confinement fusion plasmas and their diagnostics.

ECE Department Chair Christos Christodoulou, also a co-PI on the compact pulsed power MURI program, has diverse research interests ranging from antennas for communications up to the Terahertz range, to MEMS —microelectromechanical systems— tiny machines that can sense, compute, act and communicate.
More than $10 million in funding sources for research performed in the lab has come from various agencies including the Defense Research and Engineering, NASA, NATO, Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and more. The laboratory does not receive money from the state or UNM.

“We have built up our infrastructure over the past 15 years from the ground-up,” Schamiloglu said.

The lab has been receiving significant exposure in the press recently including an article in the New York Times and in NBC local affliate KOB-TV because of the media’s interest in high power microwave sources.

Schamiloglu said plans for the laboratory are to continue doing the best to perform first-rate research, giving both undergraduate and graduate students the best education possible, and to help strengthen the economic base of the state.

“The overall Applied Electromagnetics Area is rapidly becoming one of the top programs in this area in the greater Southwest, and will undoubtedly continue to receive greater national and international visibility,” Schamiloglu said.