Milton Garces, associate researcher in the Hawai‘i Institute for Geophysics and Planetology, will lead the infrasound portion of the new program funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The consortium effort will be led by researchers at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
The University of Hawaiʻi Infrasound Laboratory specializes in the study of deep, inaudible atmospheric sound produced by intense explosions and extreme natural events such as volcanoes, asteroid impacts, and tsunamis. These deep sounds travel through the atmosphere for thousands of miles, and can be used to pinpoint possible explosive nuclear tests from a distance.
“Infrasound can help us to quickly differentiate between underground and atmospheric explosions, as well as recognize a meteor from a missile,” said Garces, whose laboratory currently operates infrasound listening stations in Hawaiʻi and Palau as part of the International Monitoring System of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
“UH has been working on these problems for over 15 years, and is actively developing the next generation of tools to improve our global coverage and detection capabilities,” Garces said. “However, infrasound is only a small part of the puzzle, and we are honored to be part of a diverse team of that is working together to properly address this topic.”
The new NNSA funding establishes the Center for Verification Technology, under which UH joins a consortium of 13 universities working with eight national labs to analyze nuclear nonproliferation efforts, improve technologies for detecting secret nuclear weapon tests, and train the next generation of nonproliferation experts. More than 20 consortium teams across the United States competed for this new program.
“Developing the R&D expertise of tomorrow can take years to cultivate,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington in an NNSA press release. “But we are linking national laboratories and academia by funding the next generation of researchers to perform complex research and gain an understanding of technical challenges in areas of major importance for the nuclear nonproliferation mission that can only be garnered first-hand at the national laboratories.”
In addition to the University of Michigan and University of Hawai‘i, the consortium includes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, Columbia, North Carolina State, Pennsylvania State, Duke, University of Wisconsin, University of Florida, Oregon State, Yale, and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign; the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory; and several national laboratories, including Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest and Idaho.