Thursday, May 5, 2016
scott baalrud portrait
Scott Baalrud

A physics and astronomy faculty member has won a major award from the U.S. Department of Energy to advance his research into using fusion energy for electricity production.

Scott Baalrud, assistant professor, will receive $750,000 over five years from the DOE’s Office of Science. He is one of 49 scientists nationwide to be selected for the award, which is given to researchers who are in the early stages of their career.

Baalrud will study materials properties of magnetized warm dense matter, characterized by densities several times that of solid density and temperatures of tens to hundreds of thousands degrees Celsius. These conditions arise in inertial-confinement fusion experiments, which is a method being explored to harness fusion energy for electricity production.

“This project will explore how compressed magnetic fields may be used to lower the stringent compression requirements that currently inhibit net energy gain using this concept,” says Baalrud, who joined the UI faculty in 2012 after earning his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “I am thrilled that the Department of Energy has recognized this as a topic worthy of investigating, and I’m excited to explore both the fundamental physics issues and the potential applications to clean-energy innovation.”

This is the seventh year the DOE has given awards through the Early Career Research Program, designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.