Welcome to the FLASH center

The Flash Center for Computational Science at the University of Chicago is the home of several cross-disciplinary computational research projects, and FLASH, a publicly available multiphysics multiscale simulation code with a wide international user base. Research projects include high-energy density physics and thermonuclear-powered supernovae.


Scientists at the Flash Center for Computational Science, along with colleagues in Europe and the U.S., have been heralded by the UK Institute of Physics for making one of the top-ten physics breakthroughs of 2014. They used one of the world's most powerful lasers to create tiny versions of supernova explosions in the laboratory. The experiment demonstrated the amplification of magnetic fields by turbulence, a mechanism thought to play a role in creating the powerful magnetic fields seen in some remnants of exploding stars, such as Cassiopeia A. SEE HOW THEY DID IT.

The Flash Center’s research in high energy density physics is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration.


Magnetic fields are everywhere in the universe, from the Sun and other stars, to galaxies and clusters of galaxies. But the origin of these magnetic fields, and why they are as strong as they are, remain a mystery. Nonlinear amplification of seed magnetic fields by turbulence is a widely invoked explanation for how cosmic magnetic fields become as strong as we observe them to be. But this mechanism – which is called the turbulent dynamo – has never been demonstrated in the laboratory.

Now, an international team of scientists led by the Flash Center for Computational Science has been awarded time at the Omega laser – one of the most powerful lasers in the world – to create a magnetized turbulent plasma and see if the seed magnetic fields are amplified by an enormous amount, as scientists have postulated. To do this, the team will fire intense lasers at two targets, creating two plasma jets that will each flow through a grid and become turbulent. The jets will then collide, making the plasma even more turbulent. The experiment is expected to produce magnetic Reynolds numbers Rm > 1000 – far greater than the value Rm > 200 theorists say is needed for the turbulent dynamo mechanism to work.

The international scientific team that will conduct the experiment includes members from the University of Oxford, UK; the University of Rochester; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; ETH Zurich, Switzerland; Ecole Polytechnique, France; and the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, Korea; as well as the Flash Center at the University of Chicago. The experiment at the Omega laser and the Flash Center’s research in high energy density physics are both supported by the U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration.
FLASH 3D simulation of the Omega experiment

FLASH full-physics 3D simulation of the Omega experiment. Two foil targets, machined with cylindrical wells in the center, are illuminated with lasers to drive colliding flows. In the path of the flows, two meshes are placed to stir turbulence with a controlled driving scale. The time lapses of density logarithm (rendering) and magnetic field magnitude (three-slice) show the laser-driven jets traversing the grids and colliding at the center. The self-generated Biermann battery fields are amplified to Mega-Gauss values by the induced turbulence.