To gain an edge on hypersonic weapons, the Pentagon wants more help from universities

WASHINGTON — As the Pentagon races to develop hypersonic weapons, it is turning to universities for help on speeding up the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the field.

The Defense Department on Oct. 26 tapped Texas A&M University to create and manage a University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics. Over a five-year period, the department will pay out $20 million per year to the university’s Engineering Experiment Station, it said in a statement.

Greater interplay among government, academia and industry is needed to better integrate the various state-of-the art technologies necessary to create hypersonic weapons, which require novel propulsion systems and advanced materials that can withstand the extreme conditions intrinsic to flying five times the speed of sound, said Gillian Bussey, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Hypersonics Transition Office.

“The department is funding a good amount of basic research in hypersonics,” she said. “But we’re finding that tests leading some of the more applied areas,” which supports the transfer of technologies into manufactured products, “are not quite as healthy and not bringing fresh blood into our work force and into our industry.”

The new consortium will work directly with the Defense Department and other government agencies on hypersonic research, with a focus on partnering with industry to transition new technologies into programs of record.

Bussey pointed to hypersonic development activities in China, where academic research papers show that college students are being exposed to every element of hypersonic vehicle development, from design to flying experimental prototypes in windtunnel tests.

The U.S. consortium will start working on challenge projects, where a military agency like the Office of Naval Research designates a problem for the university to solve. Those problems could potentially involve classified or controlled technologies.

“The gold standard [for the U.S. university consortium] would be to have the team develop a vehicle and fly it. That really depends on our budget and how things go,” Bussey said.

The consortium is set to begin operations this fall and will be led by Rodney Bowersox, an aeronautical engineering professor at Texas A&M and director of the university’s hypersonics laboratory.

A board of experts — with members from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Minnesota, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Arizona, the University of Tennessee Space Institute, Morgan State University, the California Institute of Technology, Purdue, the University of California-Los Angeles, and the Georgia Institute of Technology — will also provide guidance to the new organization.

Developing and fielding hypersonic weapons has been a major priority for the Defense Department officials, who have raised concerns about Chinese and Russian advances in that realm. Last week, national security adviser Robert O’Brien announced that the Navy’s Virginia-class submarines, Zumwalt-class destroyers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers would all eventually be able to launch hypersonic missiles.

“We do believe we are in a bit of a race right now,” said Mark Lewis, the department’s director of research and engineering for modernization. “We had previously a number of a prototype

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Realistic simulation of plasma edge instabilities in tokamaks

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Edge Localized Modes, ELMs for short, are one of the disturbances of the plasma confinement that are caused by the interaction between the charged plasma particles and the confining magnetic field cage. During ELM events, the edge plasma loses its confinement for a short time and periodically throws plasma particles and energy outwards onto the vessel walls. Typically, one tenth of the total energy content can thus be ejected abruptly. While the present generation of medium-sized fusion devices can cope with this, large devices such as ITER or a future power plant would not be able to withstand this strain.

Experimental methods to attenuate, suppress or avoid ELMs have already been successfully developed in current fusion devices (see PI 3/2020). After extensive previous work, it has now been possible for the first time by means of computational simulations to identify the trigger responsible for the explosive onset of these edge instabilities and to reconstruct the course of several ELM cycles—in good agreement with experimentally observed values. A publication accepted in the scientific journal Nuclear Fusion explains this important prerequisite for predicting and avoiding ELM instabilities in future fusion devices.

The ELM instability builds up after a quiet phase of about 5 to 20 milliseconds—depending on the external conditions—until in half a millisecond between 5 and 15 percent of the energy stored in the plasma is flung onto the walls. Then the equilibrium is restored until the next ELM eruption follows.

The plasma theorists around first author Andres Cathey of IPP, who come from several laboratories of the European fusion program EUROfusion, were able to describe and explain the complex physical processes behind this phenomenon in detail: as a non-linear interplay between destabilizing effects—the steep rise in plasma pressure at the plasma edge and the increase in current density—and the stabilizing plasma flow. If the heating power fed into the plasma is changed in the simulation, the calculated result shows the same effect on the repetition rate of the ELMs, i.e. the frequency, as an increase of the heating power in a plasma experiment at ASDEX Upgrade tokamak: experiment and simulation are in Agreement.

Computer simulation of ELM crashes at the lower plasma edge of ASDEX Upgrade fusion device. The video shows the evolution of the plasma pressure over several ELM cycles during 35 milliseconds. Credit: Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics / Andres Cathey, Matthias Hoelzl

Although the processes take place in a very short time, their simulation requires a great deal of computing effort. This is because the simulation must resolve into small calculation steps both the short ELM crash and the long development phase between two ELMs—a calculation problem that could only be solved with one of the fastest supercomputers currently available.

For the simulations the JOREK code was used, a non-linear code for the calculation of tokamak plasmas in realistic geometry, which is being developed in European and international cooperation with strong contributions from IPP.

Promising computer simulations for stellarator plasmas

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BSN degree gives edge in nursing career

For those looking to gain an edge for a nursing career, obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is the first step.

a young girl using a laptop computer sitting on top of a book shelf

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The report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice, stated the education impacts the knowledge and competencies of the nurse clinician. For those with a BSN, they are not only well-prepared to meet demands, they also are valued for their critical thinking, leadership, case management, and health promotion.


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Kathryn Tart, EdD, MSN, RN, founding dean and professor, and Humana endowed dean’s chair in nursing at the University of Houston, said there are multiple paths to get a BSN, such as the RN to BSN, second degree BSN, and traditional BSN.

Applicants for the nursing program will have their overall GPA, science GPAs, and testing exams reviewed in addition to an interview process.

“All nursing programs have qualifications,” Tart said. “We have more applicants than we’ve ever had. People want to help and know there’s a need. It’s a good profession to have a job and make a difference with individuals, families and the communities they touch.”

Dr. Rhonda Bell, San Jacinto College — Central Campus (SJC) dean of Health and Natural Sciences, said they have nursing programs on all three campuses as the demand for nurses continues to stay steady.

The BSN is one more step to obtaining a position in a clinical setting.

“We’re trying to meet the demand,” said Bell. “We’re expecting lots of retirements.”

San Jacinto College’s RN-to-BSN program is one year and designed for the working RN with an associate degree looking to advance within the profession. The program follows an eight-week course model, building on previous education and experience while providing face-to-face and distance learning opportunities that accommodate an employed RN’s schedule.

Concepts covered include community health nursing, nursing research, public and global health policy, informatics, and leadership.

“We see the success of our students as they master the curriculum. This allows them to be independent in learning. The chancellor has worked on this for a number of years. It’s exciting,” Bell said.

The National Institutes of Health article, Is a Baccalaureate in Nursing Worth It? The Return to Education, 2000—2008, stated the Institute of Medicine recommended 80% of RNs attain a bachelor’s degree by 2020 as the increasing complexity of nursing care warrants a higher educational standard.

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