University of Wisconsin-Madison Physical Sciences Lab

Archive for 2014

PSL in the News

Friday, September 26th, 2014



Photo: Jeff Miller

The UW-Madison news service recently ran a feature on PSL. The article touched on our ongoing work on the LBNE project, announced Bob Paulos as our Interim Director, as well as our Pro Bono project which provides reduced cost or free help on projects for UW-Madison students and faculty.

Read the article

Friday, April 25th, 2014

PSL recently received funding to assist in upgrading some plasma diagnostics on the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX) located at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). The NSTX is currently undergoing a $94-million upgrade, NSTX-U, that will double its current and heating capacity and the strength of the plasma confinement magnets.

PSL mechanical engineer Ken Kriesel and CAD specialist Glen Gregerson are working with Dave Smith of UW-Madison Engineering Physics and George Labik of PPPL to design a new fiber optic front-end assembly for NSTX-U. This will pack nearly double the density of fiber optic bundles into the same small space. Fifty-four bundles (each containing 9 fibers), plus some accessory equipment including thermocouples and air cooling paths, and all the mounting, total hundreds of separate pieces including spacers and fasteners, yet must fit inside a cylindrical volume less than 2.32″ in diameter, previously occupied by its predecessor containing only 28 bundles.

A complicating factor is that since one of the requirements of the NSTX-U upgrade is to reduce the magnetic permeability of the experiment’s components, the choices of materials for machined parts and fasteners are quite limited.

Assembly of the device must be performed in place on NSTX-U, due to the space restrictions present. New features are incorporated to aid what was already a difficult assembly process with 28 fiber bundles, and will be more challenging with the increase to 54 bundles.

Comings and Goings

Friday, March 21st, 2014

PSL has undergone some personnel changes in the last few months.

Brenda Marty, a long time maintenance person, retired in January. Her position was filled by Larry Phillips, who we welcome to PSL.

Greg Vlasak joined our Machine Shop from SRC. Greg’s expertise in high vacuum welding, as well as his extensive experience, have proven to be very valuable to PSL.

Shared Admin IT person Jon Young left for a new position as the director of Change Management at the Wisconsin DNR. PSL IT staff, Eric Espe and Jason Laffin, have taken over Jon’s duties in Shared Admin as well as covering the IT requests at SRC as it closes.

IceCube is 2013’s Breakthrough of the Year

Friday, January 31st, 2014

IceCube’s discovery of cosmic neutrinos was Physics World magazine’s “2013 Breakthrough of the Year.” IceCube is the world’s largest telescope; consisting of 5,600 optical modules, which detect neutrinos, that are frozen in the ice at the South Pole. Twenty cosmic neutrinos were detected, and interacted with the telescope, enabling IceCube researchers to determine the minimum energy of these neutrinos to within 15%.

Read the article.

New PSL Newsletter

Friday, January 17th, 2014

  • PSL’s Expertise Reaches Beyond Research

    Once again PSL is at the South Pole, but this season it is something all new, the project involves civil engineering and the customer is Lockheed Martin. After an unexpected power outage due to generator issues, the water supply pump in the rod well would not restart leaving the station and its population without a source for water.

  • Large Hadron Collider Updates are Underway

    The Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva, Switzerland is shut down for possibly two years, but that does not mean that work has stopped. In fact it is teaming with engineers, technicians and scientists.

  • In the Works, the Future’s Massive Neutrino Detector

    Some of the world’s top physicists are coming together to help create a giant neutrino detector. A high-intensity neutrino beam will project 800 miles from Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois to the detector located in a mine in Lead, SD.

  • Working Together for Research: IDDO and PSL

    One of their drills, that is in high demand is their 4-Inch Electromechanical Drill system or as it is referred to the agile drill. This easily mobile drill is used for projects to recover high quality ice core analysis. IDDO contacted PSL with work for the new barrels of this drill.

  • Finding, Testing and Helping Solve Problems

    The PSL engineering team that was heading to the South Pole made a request for a camera needed for the Lockheed Martin project. The list of requirements was long.

  • Designing a Precision Height Gauge for More Accurate Results

    Dr. Carol Mitchell’s research requires taking a measurement with an ultrasonic sensor in each of the cells of six-cell culture plates. In order to get consistent results the operator must lower the sensor to the same depth, within a few thousandths of an inch, into each cell. She asked if PSL could help design some equipment to assist with this job.