Berkeley Lab

BLAST In The News

BLAST codes and algorithms, and their uses in making better accelerators, have been the subject of a number of news stories as well as papers in the scholarly literature. Here are some good places to start.

Taking Accelerator Simulations to the Exascale

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) has announced support for 15 critical research applications for next-generation supercomputers, and LBNL’s Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics Division will lead one of them: “Exascale Modeling of Advanced Particle Accelerators,” headed by Dr. Jean-Luc Vay.

See also “The Incredible Shrinking Particle Accelerator,” an article by Kathy Kincade of the National Energy Research Supercomputing Center, which puts accelerator simulation in the context of other computational research, supercomputing, and visualization capabilities at LBNL.

Boosted Frames Basics

A hundred-plus years after Einstein’s annus mirabilis, relativity still has a few tricks left for us to discover, and BLAST leader Jean-Luc Vay found one of them: how to make time-based simulation of relativistic physics much quicker and easier in critical areas through astute choice of an inertial frame of reference from which to look at the problem. See popular articles by the American Physical Society or the seminal technical paper on the subject, Physical Review Letters 98, 130405 (2007).

Boosted Frames and BELLA

A multidisciplinary team from BLAST, the LOASIS/BELLA program, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Tech-X Corporation uses the boosted-frame method to greatly speed up three-dimensionally simulation of a laser-plasma wakefield accelerator. A popular article and the technical paper Physics of Plasmas 18, 030701 (2011) are available online.

Does Antimatter Fall Antidown?

This seemingly simple question still puzzles physicists, in part because it is so devilishly hard to study well. With improved techniques to form, trap, and cool antimatter atoms, a number of experiments have begun studying this and a number of related questions in the field of “CPT invariance,” using atoms that are like hydrogen but made of antimatter. The Warp code played a key role in modeling the apparatus for one of these experiments.

Accelerators, Codes, and Clean, Cheap Energy

One approach to controlled fusion energy is through inertial confinement, in which a small capsule of fusion fuel is heated and compressed, so that the fusion reaction take place before the fuel flies apart. LBNL has the long-range goal of developing powerful, energetic heavy-ion accelerators that will not only “drive” a fusion target, but also have cost, efficiency, and reliability that make business sense as the basis for a power plant. The emergent and related science of high-energy-density physics with laboratory plasmas— “the X Games of contemporary science” by a National Research Council committee— a natural match for the same experimental facilities, modeling techniques, and other areas of expertise. The Laboratory’s flagship facility in this area is the Neutralized Drift Compression Experiment II, an accelerator that has benefitted greatly from modeling; it is the home of IMPACT, one of the codes brought together in BLAST.

Recognition for BLAST Personnel


BELLA Simulation Team Receives NERSC HPC Award

Animation of a simulation of BELLA laser plasma interaction

Computer simulation of the plasma wakefield as it evolves over the length of the 9 cm long channel in BELLA. For more details on the simulation aspects, see this news release from NERSC.

For the second consecutive year, ATAP modeling work has been honored with a NERSC High Performance Computing Achievement Award. The NERSC HPC Achievement awards are given by the Department of Energy’s LBNL-hosted National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center.



The open-category award for High Impact Scientific Achievement went to the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) Center for its use of NERSC supercomputers for the modeling of laser plasma accelerators, and in particular for the importance of modeling in the successful acceleration of electrons to 4.25 GeV in only 9 cm.

Extensive simulations using INF&RNO, a code developed under Benedetti’s leadership for modeling laser-plasma interactions, showed that the experiment and causes of fluctuations in beam energy and charge are well understood. These fully self-consistent, multi-dimensional particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations ran on the Cray XC30 supercomputer “Edison” at NERSC. They were of fundamental importance in modeling the propagation of a high-intensity laser in the plasma, characterizing the nonlinear wakefield excitation, and studying the details of particle self-trapping. The results were important in planning the experiment and also in helping us understand the results.


Winners of 2015 NERSC HPC Award standing on stairway
ATAP physicist and simulation-code developer Carlo Benedetti (center) accepts a NERSC HPC Achievement Award on behalf of the BELLA Center team. Other winners included Taylor Barnes of Caltech (bottom) and Ken Chen, UC-Santa Cruz (top), as well as LBNL’s Craig Tull, SPOT Suite project (not pictured). The award ceremony took place February 24, 2015 at LBNL as part of the annual NERSC User Group meeting.

US Particle Accelerator School Prize

BLAST team leader Jean-Luc Vay was honored in 2013 with the US Particle Accelerator School Prize for Achievement in Accelerator Physics and Technology. The USPAS Prize, given every other year, recognizes the achievements of two people in the accelerator field, one of them under 45 years of age. Vay shared the award with former AFRD senior scientist Kwang-Je Kim, who is now with Argonne National Laboratory.

The award was formally presented in October at NA-PAC’13, the North American Particle Accelerator Conference. Here are links to learn more about one of Vay’s prominent achievements, the Lorentz boosted frame technique, or about the USPAS Prize.

NERSC HPC Achievement Award

Vay was also one of the three 2014 recipients of the NERSC HPC Achievement Award. The award recognizes National Energy Research Supercomputing Center users who have demonstrated an innovative use of high-performance computing resources to solve a scientific problem, or whose work has had an exceptional impact on scientific understanding or society. Vay’s award recognized novel methods developed for and realized in the BLAST code Warp.