Pulsed power

Pulsed power is the science and technology of accumulating energy over a relatively long period of time and releasing it very quickly, thus increasing the instantaneous power.

Steady accumulation of energy followed by its rapid release can result in the delivery of a larger amount of instantaneous power over a shorter period of time (although the total energy is the same). Energy is typically stored within electrostatic fields (capacitors), magnetic fields (inductor), as mechanical energy (using large flywheels connected to special purpose high current alternators), or as chemical energy (high-current lead-acid batteries, or explosives). By releasing the stored energy over a very short interval (a process that is called energy compression), a huge amount of peak power can be delivered to a load. For example, if one joule of energy is stored within a capacitor and then evenly released to a load over one second, the peak power delivered to the load would only be 1 watt. However, if all of the stored energy were released within one microsecond, the peak power would be one megawatt, a million times greater. Examples where pulsed power technology is commonly used include radar, particle accelerators, ultrastrong magnetic fields, fusion research, electromagnetic pulses, and high power pulsed lasers.

Pulsed Power was first developed during World War II for use in Radar. Radar requires short high power pulses. After the war development continued in other applications leading to the super pulsed power machines at Sandia National Laboratories (above).

Post-Showcase Interviews

We have a special interviewing session that happens in the few days following Career Showcase ( These opportunities are NOT listed in Gator CareerLink (

To possibly gain an interview, attend Career Showcase. The representatives will be scheduling interviews to be held on September 28 (Wednesday), 29 (Thursday) and 30 (Friday).

Be sure to check out the following organizations at Career Showcase on September 28 & 28 for interviewing opportunities:

American Express
Anheuser-Busch, Inc
Bechtel Corporation
Beckman Coulter
Belmark, Inc
BP America
Buckeye International, Inc.
Campbell Soup
Central Intelligence Agency
Chevron Corporation
Citrix Systems Inc
Consolidated Graphics
Costa Farms
Dow Chemical
Eaton Corporation
EchoStar Communications
Fifth Third Bank
First Command Financial Planning
Fortegra Financial
General Electric
Harris Corporation
Hess Corporation
Ingersoll Rand/Trane
Intel Corporation
International Paper
LarsonAllen LLP
Lockheed Martin
Ludeca, Inc
Maxim Healthcare Services
Merion Realty Management, LLC
National Insturments
National Security Agency
Procter & Gamble
Rockwell Collins
Sandia National Laboratories
Siemens Corporation
T H Hill Associates
Tata Consultancy Agency
Tensar International Corporation
Texas Instruments
The Hershey Company
The Mosaic Company
Tires Plus Total Care Care
Trane Company
Ultimate Software
Walmart Stores, Inc.

We also have regularly interviews that occur during the weeks following Career Showcase. Find out more and apply for these interviews in Gator CareerLink. Watch out for the Resume Submission deadlines (they are coming up quick).

Be sure to take advantage of both opportunities. Questions? CALL 352-392-1601, VISIT first floor, Reitz Union or CLICK to Good luck!

Iron’s Role in The Transmission of Energy Within the Sun

Scientists sometimes say that the inside of a star is one of the most mysterious places in the universe, but perhaps the nearest star isn’t as mysterious as it was just last week. Learn more:

(Pictured: Sandia’s Z Machine, Image by Randy Montoya)


Yesterday we displayed GE’s research in advanced microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), a technology the company is using to make tiny switches that can turn on and off 10,000 times a second. Other researchers around the country are looking into different MEMS applications to make tiny gears, tools and even engines. 

Above are a few examples from Sandia National Laboratories and Boston University, two other institutions also working on extreme miniaturization. Click on these electron microscope images to learn more.

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The Blissful Insensate

There’s a reason we don’t know about the things sharing the same space we do. The most obvious one is we can’t see them. Nor can we hear, smell, touch, or taste them. But they exist. They float in and through us; in and through each other. Space, to them, is an infinite series of fields in what we’d consider single positions. If it sounds like nonsense, then you’re showing you can think. You’re showing you have an epistemology based in logic and reason. The problem for us, a group of great thinkers by anyone’s standards, was it meant we were utterly unprepared.

I worked at the Sandia National Laboratories on a project called the Z-Machine. We made the news back in 2006 when we were able to produce the highest temperature ever detected, at around 6.6 billion degrees Fahrenheit. Since then, the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland has produced a higher temperature and gleaned loads more information than we were able to. That didn’t mean we decommissioned our Z-Machine and terminated the associated research. Far from it.

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Sandia National Laboratories Has Completed Design for Nuclear Powered Drone

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Nukulahr AEROPLaneess! Weeeh. Ok, got that out of my system. Ahem… I would love to see one of these built as a technology test bed, but not deployed to the front lines quite yet.

First off, we’re not 100% certain that they use a nuclear power plant on board the plane to accomplish these month long loiter times, but I’d say that is highly likely, considering the article points out that the leader of the project is a nuclear physicist. Assuming they do use a nuclear reactor on board….

Among the objections to this I’ve been reading in the comment threads, I can probably write off of few of them pretty quickly, and some of them I suppose would have to be answered by Sandia.


1) The terrorists will hack into the drone, steal it, and use the reactor to build nuclear weapons.

I think this one can be safely answered… If they don’t use weapons grade material in the reactor, there is no issue. Also certain types of reactors can’t be used to build weapons. If they have a choice, I’m sure they are going with the non-weaponizable reactor.

2) In the event it crashes, it will create a nuclear explosion.

Ok, there could be local radiation at the crash site, but that’s about it. There wouldn’t be a nuclear explosion along the lines of Hiroshima. Additionally there are types of small reactors being discussed that in theory would have little to no radiation, like Thorium reactors. Maybe that is what they put in the design? In any case, the worst case is local radiation.

3) Terrorists could steal the crashed/stolen drone and explode it in New York as a dirty bomb.

Possibly, but there would be a ton of hurdles involved with this. Assuming they could smuggle the intact reactor away from the crash site without dying, they’d have to transport it across an ocean where anyone who comes within a certain distance of it would be exposed to radiation. If it the type of reactor that produces large amounts of radiation then there is nothing to move and explode in New York.

The other objections had to do with “how we do trust America?”, or “Obama is a war monger (seriously?)!!!”, and I’m just not going to bother with those.

Overall, nuclear propulsion could be a very exciting prospect assuming they get some of the problems they’ve had (since the 50s) resolved, and that is why I hope they build at least one of these so they can start checking how well their theories fit with reality.

Triple-threat method sparks hope for fusion

The secrets to its success are lasers, magnets and a big pinch.

The Z machine at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico discharges the most intense pulses of electrical current on Earth. Millions of amperes can be sent towards a metallic cylinder the size of a pencil eraser, inducing a magnetic field that creates a force — called a Z pinch — that crushes the cylinder in a fraction of a second.

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The brain: key to a better computer

Your brain is incredibly well-suited to handling whatever comes along, plus it’s tough and operates on little energy. Those attributes — dealing with real-world situations, resiliency and energy efficiency — are precisely what might be possible with neuro-inspired computing.

“Today’s computers are wonderful at bookkeeping and solving scientific problems often described by partial differential equations, but they’re horrible at just using common sense, seeing new patterns, dealing with ambiguity and making smart decisions,” said John Wagner, cognitive sciences manager at Sandia National Laboratories.

In contrast, the brain is “proof that you can have a formidable computer that never stops learning, operates on the power of a 20-watt light bulb and can last a hundred years,” he said.

Although brain-inspired computing is in its infancy, Sandia has included it in a long-term research project whose goal is future computer systems. Neuro-inspired computing seeks to develop algorithms that would run on computers that function more like a brain than a conventional computer.

“We’re evaluating what the benefits would be of a system like this and considering what types of devices and architectures would be needed to enable it,” said microsystems researcher Murat Okandan.

Sandia’s facilities and past research make the laboratories a natural for this work: its Microsystems & Engineering Science Applications (MESA) complex, a fabrication facility that can build massively interconnected computational elements; its computer architecture group and its long history of designing and building supercomputers; strong cognitive neurosciences research, with expertise in such areas as brain-inspired algorithms; and its decades of work on nationally important problems, Wagner said.

New technology often is spurred by a particular need. Early conventional computing grew from the need for neutron diffusion simulations and weather prediction. Today, big data problems and remote autonomous and semiautonomous systems need far more computational power and better energy efficiency.

Neuro-inspired computers would be ideal for robots, remote sensors

Neuro-inspired computers would be ideal for operating such systems as unmanned aerial vehicles, robots and remote sensors, and solving big data problems, such as those the cyber world faces and analyzing transactions whizzing around the world, “looking at what’s going where and for what reason,” Okandan said.

Such computers would be able to detect patterns and anomalies, sensing what fits and what doesn’t. Perhaps the computer wouldn’t find the entire answer, but could wade through enormous amounts of data to point a human analyst in the right direction, Okandan said.

“If you do conventional computing, you are doing exact computations and exact computations only. If you’re looking at neurocomputation, you are looking at history, or memories in your sort of innate way of looking at them, then making predictions on what’s going to happen next,” he said. “That’s a very different realm.”

Modern computers are largely calculating machines with a central processing unit and memory that stores both a program and data. They take a command from the program and data from the memory to execute the command, one step at a time, no matter how fast they run. Parallel and multicore computers can do more than one thing at a time but still use the same basic approach and remain very far removed from the way the brain routinely handles multiple problems concurrently.

The architecture of neuro-inspired computers would be fundamentally different, uniting processing and storage in a network architecture “so the pieces that are processing the data are the same pieces that are storing the data, and the data will be processed with all nodes functioning concurrently,” Wagner said. “It won’t be a serial step-by-step process; it’ll be this network processing everything all at the same time. So it will be very efficient and very quick.”

Unlike today’s computers, neuro-inspired computers would inherently use the critical notion of time. “The things that you represent are not just static shots, but they are preceded by something and there’s usually something that comes after them,” creating episodic memory that links what happens when. This requires massive interconnectivity and a unique way of encoding information in the activity of the system itself, Okandan said.

More neurosciences research opens more possibilities for brain-inspired computing

Each neuron in a neural structure can have connections coming in from about 10,000 neurons, which in turn can connect to 10,000 other neurons in a dynamic way. Conventional computer transistors, on the other hand, connect on average to four other transistors in a static pattern.

Computer design has drawn from neuroscience before, but an explosion in neuroscience research in recent years opens more possibilities. While it’s far from a complete picture, Okandan said what’s known offers “more guidance in terms of how neural systems might be representing data and processing information” and clues about replicating those tasks in a different structure to address problems impossible to solve on today’s systems.

Brain-inspired computing isn’t the same as artificial intelligence, although a broad definition of artificial intelligence could encompass it.

“Where I think brain-inspired computing can start differentiating itself is where it really truly tries to take inspiration from biosystems, which have evolved over generations to be incredibly good at what they do and very robust against a component failure. They are very energy efficient and very good at dealing with real-world situations. Our current computers are very energy inefficient, they are very failure-prone due to components failing and they can’t make sense of complex data sets,” Okandan said.

Computers today do required computations without any sense of what the data is — it’s just a representation chosen by a programmer.

“Whereas if you think about neuro-inspired computing systems, the structure itself will have an internal representation of the datastream that it’s receiving and previous history that it’s seen, so ideally it will be able to make predictions on what the future states of that datastream should be, and have a sense for what the information represents.” Okandan said.

He estimates a project dedicated to brain-inspired computing will develop early examples of a new architecture in the first several years, but said higher levels of complexity could take decades, even with the many efforts around the world working toward the same goal.

“The ultimate question is, ‘What are the physical things in the biological system that let you think and act, what’s the core essence of intelligence and thought?’ That might take just a bit longer,” he said.
Two Scientists Just Figured Out How to Stop HIV From Progressing Into AIDS
A closer look at the protein Nef has just changed the landscape of HIV research — and treatment.

A more sophisticated approach to antiretroviral therapy is in the works, one that focuses on Nef, a protein responsible in the progression from HIV to AIDS. Researcher Mike Kent from Sandia National Laboratories and Northeastern University bioanalytical chemistry professor John Engan combined their scientific methods to find out how to stop Nef (Negative Regulatory Factor) from disrupting the immune system. What they discovered was mind blowing.

First of all, let’s talk about how Nef is able to turn HIV into AIDS. What you need to know about Nef is that it’s a shape shifter; it has to change its shape, otherwise it will not be able to interact with host proteins. Once it shapes itself, Nef is able to bind to an infected cell’s membrane, where it basically corrupts cellular communications (like all viruses do), making it a lot easier for the virus to multiply.

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