PART II Continues. Larry Ray Foreman (1944-1999): An American Fusion Physicist of Dutch Descent in Venezuela

This text is the continuation of the second part of the essay: Larry Ray Foreman (1944-1999): An American Fusion Physicist of Dutch Descent in Venezuela.


Click here to go to PART I CONTINUES.

We remind our readers that Part II is divided as follows:


(3) The Education and Professional Career of Larry Ray Foreman

  • Brookings High School
  • Studying Engineering Physics at SDSU
  • Larry Ray Foreman, from the University of Colorado, Boulder to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)
  • Larry Ray Foreman in San Cristóbal, Venezuela
  • His Own Family
  • Guessing Larry Ray Foreman’s Reasons for Coming to Venezuela

(4) The Physics of Larry Ray Foreman

  • What Kind of Physics Did He Favor?
  • The Edward Teller Medal
  • The Larry Foreman Award
  • Larry Foreman and Low Temperature Research
  • The Publications and Patents of Larry Ray Foreman

(5) In Lieu of a Conclusion
(6) Acknowledgements

You are invited to come along to discover with us a story of fusion science and learn about the contributions of Larry Foreman to the development of this field.

Larry Ray Foreman (1944-1999)

Larry Ray Foreman in 1966. Source: The Jack Rabbit Yearbook, 1966.




But, of course,
an idea is unimportant unless one develops it.
Edward Teller (1908-2003)

(4) The Physics of Larry Ray Foreman

What kind of physics did he favor?

Finally, we turn out attention to Larry Ray Foreman’s science. We have seen that at the University of Colorado, Boulder he specialized in experimental low temperature physics. What is this branch of physics research about? And, how did he make a transition to such a different field of physics like the science of fusion?

Let us start backwards from the field of fusion science where he was recognized with the Edward Teller Medal for his contributions to the development of inertial fusion science due to his innovative work in target fabrication.

Laser preamplifiers at the National Ignition Facility. These preamplifiers are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber. Source: Wikipedia

Had Larry Foreman been alive today, he would surely have been very happy. The reason is that, as the magazine Physics World reports (in Giant lasers pass new milestone towards fusion energy), on June 14, 2018, in the Physical Review Letters, there appeared a paper with the following title: Fusion Energy Output Greater than the Kinetic Energy of an Imploding Shell at the National Ignition Facility, where

Physicists working at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in the US say they have passed another important milestone in their quest for nuclear fusion energy. They have shown that the fusion energy generated by the laser implosion of a deuterium-tritium fuel capsule is twice that of the kinetic energy of the implosion. By further trebling the fusion energy, they say they will be close to the long-sought goal of an overall net energy gain.

The fusion process. Source:The Promise of Fusion Energy, General Atomics.


But, what is fusion?

In simple words, fusion is the same physical process that generates light and energy in the Sun and many other stars. Here on Earth it is most easily achieved by combining some isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) to form isotopes of helium (He). Deuterium (D or ²H) is a hydrogen (H) atom with one neutron in its nucleus and tritium  (T or ³H) is a hydrogen (H) atom with two neutrons in its nucleus. Sea water is an inexhaustible supply of deuterium (1 part/ 6,500) and tritium can be obtained in a nuclear reactor from the chemical element lithium (Li).

But, to achieve fusion on Earth in a controlled way is not an easy task. Scientists have tried to achieve fusion with the purpose to produce clean electric power in, mainly, two different ways: magnetic fusion energy (MFE) and inertial fusion energy (IFE). One of the first ideas was Edward Teller’s project PACER. Here, we will not concern ourselves with MFE except to say that it is based on confining the fusion energy in a magnetic field and that the best example of this approach is the JET Tokamak. We will concern ourselves with IFE and the NIF initiative.

National Ignition Facility (NIF)

NIF is “big science.” That is, massive scientific facilities that employ large teams of scientists and engineers who carry out complex experiments in order to advance scientific knowledge. The best well-known among these facilities is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world most powerful particle collider, built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Big science is a 20th century development that came into being after the Second World War, but we can find an early precursor in the large cryogenics laboratory founded by the Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926) in about 1905. We will talk about cryogenics later when commenting on Larry Ray Foreman low temperature physics research.

NIF is a large laser-based inertial confinement fusion (ICF) research device with 192 lasers (actually, neodymium-doped phosphate glass lasers), whose dimensions are about 200 meters long by 85 meters wide (550 by 300 feet), located at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, California. For information on NIF’s systems, see How NIF Works.

The original idea behind this facility was to find ways to design and build nuclear weapons that would work without having to be explosively tested; we must bear in mind that a thermonuclear H bomb is fusion energy released in an uncontrolled way.

To be able to build and test nuclear weapons without having to detonate them underground was a matter of national security for the United States and an imperative since with the end of the Cold War. The main reason was that a new Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was to be adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (it was signed on September 10th, 1996, but is not yet in force as some countries have not yet ratified it), which would ban all criticality testing of nuclear weapons.

Now, on the other hand, since the late 1950s scientists had also been looking for ways to use fusion energy to produce electric power (like project PACER). So, in the end, the national security requirements and the civilian needs for clean and cheap energy got put together in the NIF initiative (the complete story of NIF, however, is much more involved but we regret we cannot tell it here, we refer our readers to the National Ignition Facility entry in Wikipedia; for an early history of NIF, to the article in LLNL’s Science & Technology Review Magazine, Keeping Laser Development on Target for the National Ignition Facility, 1998; and to the National Research Council report, An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy, 2013).

Actual construction on the NIF began in 1997 and, on 31 March 2009, it was certified complete. Its total construction cost was $3.5 bn. Therefore, Larry Ray Foreman who died in 1999 never got a chance to see the first large-scale laser target experiments, which were performed in June 2009, and the first ignition experiments to test the laser’s power (October 2010). However, such a complex experiment with 192 lasers do not begin without first developing and assembling a scientific prototype. This prototype was the Beamlet laser (completed in 1994) which was used to test and refine NIF’s laser design and demonstrate the viability of the NIF initiative. The Beamlet laser system was a full scale scientific prototype of one of the 192 NIF beamlines.

But, what are these experiments all about and in which way did Larry Ray Foreman participated in these early inertial fussion energy efforts? The core scientific idea is as follows:

Inertial confinement fusion (ICF) is an approach to fusion energy research where physicists attempt to initiate nuclear fusion reactions by heating and compressing a fuel target, typically in the form of a pellet that most often contains a mixture of the two already mentioned substances: deuterium  and tritium.  NIF is a complex effort of hundreds of scientists and engineers (teams of physicists, chemists, engineers, computer scientists, technicians, and operations specialists) working as part of multidisciplinary teams. In a highly simplified way, we can think of NIF as composed of four areas: the source of laser light (that is, the 192 lasers), the target with its fuel, the chamber area for vacuum proposes and to contain the fusion energy debris, and the instrumentation to measure the results.

 As Edwin Cartlidge explains in Physics World:

The $3.5bn NIF trains 192 pulsed laser beams on to the inner surface of a centimetre-long hollow metal cylinder known as a hohlraum. Inside is a fuel capsule, which is a roughly 2 mm-diameter hollow sphere containing a thin deuterium-tritium layer. Each pulse lasts just a few nanoseconds and the lasers can deliver about 1.8 MJ of energy. This powerful blast causes the capsule to implode rapidly, creating immense temperatures and pressures inside a central “hot spot”, where fusion reactions occur.

The long-term goal is that the energy of neutrons given off by fusion can generate electricity. Before this is possible, NIF must show that it is possible to achieve ignition – the point at which fusion reactions generate at least as much energy delivered by the laser system. This involves self-sustaining reactions, in which the alpha particles that are also emitted during fusion give off enough heat to initiate further fusion.

Target fabrication can be considered, both, a science and an art. Larry Ray Foreman specialized in the manufacturing of the target. This, among other things, includes the fabrication of the hohlraum and the fuel capsule inside the hohlraum. Larry Foreman led LANL’s efforts in target fabrication prior to the completion of the National Ignition Facility.

Hohlraum is a word of German origin meaning “hollow space” or “cavity”. In the thermodynamic of radiation, a hohlraum is considered to be a cavity whose walls are in radiative equilibrium with the radiant energy within the cavity.

Because, at that time, NIF was an idea yet to be built. The targets made by the team led by Larry Foreman were tested at two facilities: the NOVA laser at LLNL and the smaller Trident Laser at LANL, which used smaller hohlraums. The NOVA laser was decommissioned in 1994 and the Trident laser in 2017.

There are three methods to ignite a fuel capsule: indirect drive (which uses hohlraums), direct drive, and fast ignition. The indirect drive experiments were classified material until December 1993, which explains why we failed to see many papers authored by Larry Foreman during the 1980’s.

The first time Larry Foreman and his team published work on the construction of hohlraums was, in November 1994, on a paper entitled Hohlraum Manufacture for Inertial Confinement Fusion (see below, paper No. 9 on the list of Larry Foreman ‘s publication). Therein, Foreman et. al. explained that: “Indirect drive inertial fusion uses a driver (a high powered laser or particle beam) to heat a radiation cavity called a hohlraum to hundreds of electron volts (1eV is approximately 12,000K). The X radiation from the hohlraum can be used to implode a fuel pellet, or drive some other plasma experiment.” The hohlraums are small open-ended cylinders usually made of gold (Au). The laser is arranged to shine in the open ends of the hohlraum at an oblique angle in order to strike the inner surface. The fuel capsule resides inside the hahlraum.

Below we present some diagrams and pictures of a current  hohlraum — an improved version of the hohlraum manufactured by Larry Foreman and his team at LANL.


Illustration of ICF target concepts (a) indirect drive, (b) direct drive and (c) fast ignition. Source: Taken from Figure 1, in Moses, 2009.


Diagram of the target with a cross section showing the fuel capsule Source: Figure 7 in Moses 2009


A hohlraum made of gold. Source: Physics Today, February 2015, p. 24.

For more details see: Moses, E. I. (2009). Ignition on the National Ignition Facility: a path towards inertial fusion energyNuclear Fusion49(10), 104022; and Hansen, Rose (2012). Targeting Ignition. Science and Technology Review, June issue.

“The target for an ignition experiment consists of two components: a hohlraum and a fuel capsule. The hohlraum is a metal object about the size and shape of a pencil eraser with holes at each end for laser beams to enter. Centered within this cylinder is a gas-filled, spherical fuel capsule only 2 millimeters in diameter. During experiments, the hohlraum serves as an oven, focusing laser energy in the form of x rays on the capsule. The x rays heat and compress deuterium–tritium fuel inside the capsule to extremely high pressures and temperatures—conditions matched only by those found in the interior of stars or exploding nuclear weapons” (Hansen, 2012).

At NIF, this target is placed inside a huge chamber which is a  “10m diameter sphere of 10cm thick aluminium coated with a 40cm thick neutron shielding concrete shell. The entire assembly weighs about one-half million kilograms [about 1.1 million pounds]” (Moses, 2009). For the experiment, this chamber operates under vacuum conditions.

The spherical chamber showing, on the right, a pointed object that looks like a big pencil. This object is the target positioner holding the capsule inside a cryogenic arm. Source: Hansen, Rose (2012). Targeting Ignition.

The target positioner has a shot cryogenic target arm called cryoTARPOS. We can see in the picture below, two  arms shaped like a triangle and, in their inside, we can see a hohlraum. The purpose of these arms is to enclose the hohlraum with the fuel capsule to keep it cool. The arms open five seconds before a shot.


The cryogenic target positioning system (cryoTARPOS) showing the hohlraum inside. Source: Wikipedia.


Aerial view of NIF when it was being built and of the spherical chamber when it was being set in place. Source: Campbell et. al. (1999). Inertial fusion science and technology for the next century.

The Edward Teller Medal. Source: Extracted from the book by Hora, Heinrich, and George Hunter Miley. Edward Teller Lectures: Lasers and Inertial Fusion Energy. World Scientific, 2005.

The Edward Teller Medal

The science of inertial confinement fusion has developed rapidly since the years when Larry Ray Foreman was active in this field of science (1981-1999). So his contributions to the field are already part of the history of inertial confinement fusion. As it has already been mentioned, he was awarded the Edward Teller Medal for his contributions to the development of this field of science. The Edward Teller Medal is a prestigious award that recognizes the outstanding contributions to the field of inertial confinement fusion and high energy density science.

The citation for the 1999 Edward Teller Medal to Larry Foreman reads as follows:

Larry R. Foreman, Los Alamos National Laboratory, has excelled as a leader and scientist in the U.S. program to develop and fabricate extremely high quality cryogenic targets for Inertial Confinement Fusion, including targets for the billion-dollar-scale National Ignition Facility now under construction at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His outstanding work has been recognized with a Los Alamos Distinguished Performance Award and a Department of Energy Recognition of Excellence Award.

He shared the award with Steven W. Haan of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Dov Shvarts, Ben Gurion University and Nuclear Research Center of the Negev, Israel. This award is presented at the IFSA (International Inertial Fusion Science and Applications) Conference, an annual event which is the successor of the LIRPP (Laser Interaction and Related Plasma Phenomena) conference series (1969-1997).

The award was established in June 1999 to be presented as an ANS (American Nuclear Society) Division award. It is funded by an endowment fund established by the Fusion Energy Division of ANS and is given out during odd years. The Edward Teller Award had been established previously by the LIRPP conference series, which ended in 1997. Then, ANS took the responsibility to fund the Edward Teller Medal (Award Recipients List).

The first IFSA conference was precisely IFSA 99, which was held on September 12-17, 1999, at the University of Bordeaux-1, France. IFSA is “the leading meeting where researchers of all the various branches and applications of Inertial Fusion come together to share results ” (Edward M. Campbell, 2003). However, at IFSA 99 the award for the Edward Teller Medal to Larry Ray Foreman was only honored since he was to ill to attend the formal award ceremony and deliver his award lecture.

On June 30, 1999, after the awardees were formally announced, physicist Larry Ray Foreman, received the American Nuclear Society Edward Teller Medal for his contributions to the development of inertial fusion science due to his innovative work in target fabrication, in a private ceremony, from the then IFSA-Director  Edward Michael Campbell.

For us many aspects of Larry Ray Foreman ‘s scientific activities and the progress of his professional career as a research scientist, because they were internal to LANL, remained hidden to our online investigation, however, from the published literature, we can learn about which were the specific areas of his contributions to fusion science:

(1) Indirect-drive ignition design options for the National Ignition Facility;

(2) Hohlraum manufacture for inertial confinement fusion, including gas-filled hohlraum fabrication;

(3) Techniques for micromachining of inertial confinement fusion targets, including machining sub-millimeter beryllium and aluminum components of laser targets;

(4) Work on the development of fuel capsules including parylene coated microspheres, progress in the beta-layering of solid deuterium-tritium in a spherical polycarbonate shell, and high-resolution optical measurements of surface roughness for beta-layered deuterium-tritium solid inside a re-entrant copper cylinders; and

(5) Development of instrumentation to monitor and fill a very small volume of tritium.

Additionally, four of his patents are related to tools or systems for machining surfaces to accuracies within the nanometer range and one patent is for intraocular lens fabrication.

His work on the beta-layering process of a deuterium-tritium solid deserves some brief explanations as this was a very important finding, initially made together with James K. Hoffer, in 1988, for the case of tritium (Radioactively Induced Sublimation in Solid Tritium) and later, in 1992, with J. D. Simpson and James K. Hoffer, for the case of Deuterium-Tritium (DT) (Beta-Layering of Solid Deuterium-Tritium in a Spherical Polycarbonate Shell).

We have mentioned that the NIF require a target capsule or pellet with a frozen (cryogenic) fuel. This fuel pellet contains minute quantities of tritium (T or ³H) and deuterium (D). Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen (H); it contains one proton and two neutrons. On the other hand, the fuel inside the pellet needs to be a uniform spherical shell but to achieve such uniformity is not easy.

But there is one effect that can help us to achieve a high degree of uniformity. “Radioactive isotopes are materials which exhibit internal self-heating. Tritium decays to ³He, emitting a β particle and an antineutrino. Because the β’s are reabsorbed within approximately 10 μm, condensed tritium samples have a nearly uniform self-heating rate.”

In 1988, Foreman and colleagues were able to show experimentally that when “A horizontal cylindrical cavity bounded by isothermal walls was partially filled with liquid tritium which was then frozen by reduction of the temperature to 1.0 K below the triple point. Visual observations revealed that the solid subsequently redistributed itself into a layer of uniform thickness covering the complete interior of the cavity.”

This was because, “The interior surface of a thick layer of tritium can thus be warmer than the interior surface of a nearby, thinner layer, as long as the exterior surfaces of these layers are equal in temperature or are radiating with equal emissivities to an infinite thermal sink. Being warmer, the interior surface of the thicker layer has a higher vapor pressure than the interior of the thinner layer, and a preferential sublimation-condensation effect can occur, tending to make the layers uniform in thickness.”

In other words, “Beta-layering occurs in DT because the absorption of energetic beta-particles following tritium beta decay causes self-heating of the solid. A temperature gradient is formed within the fuel layer, being hotter on the inside.” ( Hoffer, 2000). The general importance of this finding was that the “first observation of the beta-layering phenomenon showed that it was possible to fabricate inertial confinement fusion (ICF) targets having an outer ablating shell surrounding a symmetric solid layer of DT fusion fuel.” And years later, through beta layering, they were able to produce DT layers that not only met but exceeded NIF’s specifications for uniformity of the fuel within the capsule.

But now scientists, unfortunately without Larry Foreman, are exploring for other types of fuels capable of beta layering like “diborane: B2(DT)3 (or B2D3T3), methane: C(DT)2 (or CD2T2), ammonia: N(DT)3/2 (i.e., 0.5-NDT2 + 0.5-ND2T),” and, among other candidates, “water: DT0.” (James K. Hoffer (2000). Alternative Fuels for ICF Targets, Fusion Technology, 38:1, 1-5; Hoffer dedicated his paper to Larry Foreman: “This work is dedicated to the lasting memory of our colleague Larry R. Foreman, with whom these topics were first developed in April 1992.” )

For an deeper understanding of the state of the art in inertial fusion target fabrication during the late 1990s when Larry Ray Foreman was active in this field, we refer you to the General Atomics’ report: K. R. Schultz et. al. (1997). Status of Inertial Fusion Target Fabrication in the U.S.A., and to Campbell, E. M., Hogan, W. J., & Landes, S. (1999). Inertial fusion science and technology for the next century (No. UCRL-JC-135589; DP0210000). Lawrence Livermore National Lab., CA (US).

The Larry Foreman Award

After his untimely death at the peak of his career, the Larry Foreman Award for “Innovation and Excellence in Target Fabrication” was established in his memory by the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) community. The award is given approximately every two years at the Target Fabrication Specialists’ Meeting (TFSM) to recognize “someone in the inertial fusion target fabrication community who has shown the sort of dedication to quality and innovation in technique that Larry Foreman personified during his professional life.”

The nominations for the award is made by any member of the target fabrication community and the selection is done by the six ICF Lab Target Managers. It is already a tradition of the TFSM conference to present the Larry Foreman Award to an individual who has made a substantive contribution toward innovation and excellence in target fabrication. The first time the award was given was during TFSM 99, November 08-11, 1999, Catalina, California, and the first recipient was Pete Gobby of LANL. The award consists of a walnut and brass plaque and a $1000 honorarium.

Commenting on this new award, Kenneth Schultz of General Atomics, who took on the role of editor of the collection of selected papers from the TFSM, a role that Larry Foreman had previously fulfilled, said the following about Larry Ray Foreman:

Larry was one of the giants of ICF target fabrication, the leader of the LANL target fabrication activities, the chair of several previous TFSMs, and the guest editor of two previous special issues of Fusion Technology reporting on the Tenth and Twelfth TFSMs. At the Thirteenth TFSM, the “Larry Foreman Award for Excellence and Innovation in Target Fabrication” was announced that will be awarded at each TFSM in the future.

Since we could not find a webpage available where one can get acquainted with all the Larry Foreman awardees, therefore, this investigation has compiled a list of all the scientists who have so far received this award.

Larry Foreman Award Winners  
1999Pete Gobby (LANL)13th TFSM
2001Kenneth R. Schultz (General Atomics) 14th TFSM
2003Steve Letts (LLNL/CMELS)15th TFSM
2005James Hoffer (LANL) 16th TFSM
2006Masaru Takagi (LLNL/NIF) 17th TFSM
2008Russell Wallace (LLNL) 18th TFSM
2010Diana Schroen (SNL) 19th TFSM
2012Robert Day (LANL)20th TFSM
2015Martin Hoppe (General Atomics)21st TFSM
2017Robert Cook (LLNL)22nd TFSM

LLNL= Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; CMELS= The Chemistry, Materials, Earth, and Life Sciences (CMELS) Directorate at LLNL; NIF= National Ignition Facility; and SNL= Sandia National Laboratories

Some citations for the awards are as follows:

Kenneth R. Schultz, for his dedication to providing high quality targets for the ICF Program and had established at General Atomics as a true Center of Excellence for Target Fabrication.

Masaru Takagi is the inventor of the chemical processes used to make extremely round and smooth plastic shells that are the starting point for ICF capsule fabrication.

Diana Schroen, for her technical contribution as a part of the team that developed resorcinol-formaldehyde foam capsules, as well as her managerial and technical skills producing the complex wire-array targets that are used by the Z Pulsed Power Facility at SNL.

Robert Day, for his outstanding contributions to precision engineering, materials science, and target fabrication and for his leadership at LANL from the late 1990s until his retirement in 2009.

Robert Cook, “for his body of work in capsule and coating developments for ICF targets. Bob made essential contributions to the microencapsulation process for making polystyrene and polyalphamethylstyrene shells and to the vapor deposition processes for glow discharge polymer and beryllium shells. Further, he has been a motivating mentor for future scientists in this community and has been a guest editor for the TFM proceedings even in retirement.” (Stadermann, M. & Nikroo, A., 2018.

As we have mentioned, there are two main ways to achieve fusion for energy purposes: magnetic confinement and inertial fusion. From a reading of the scientific literature, it seems that the United States is ahead of the rest of the world in inertial fusion energy, but the rest of the world is way ahead of the U.S. in magnetic confinement to achieve fusion energy. Part of this great success on inertial fusion energy is due to the leadership of Larry Foreman in target fabrication.

Larry Foreman and Low Temperature Research

Now, going back to our initial question: how did he make a transition to such a different field of physics like the science of fusion?. We can see that this has an easy answer: he never quite left the field of low temperature physics. In part, all he did what to apply his knowledge of low temperature physics to target fabrication.

We have already seen that at Boulder, under the supervision of Professor Howard Arthur Snyder (1930-2015), Larry Ray Foreman worked on experimental problems related to the vorticity of a phase of helium (chemical element He) designated as Helium II ( He II).

In his doctoral work Larry Foreman performed three flow experiments in liquid He II: 1) oscillating shear flow in a rectangular geometry; 2) oscillating shear flow in a cylindrical annulus ; 3) the diffusion of superfluid turbulence through millipore filters. In order to try to detect quantum vorticity in all three experiments by measuring standing waves of second sound, something which he successfully did.

He also studied the equilibrium concentration of superfluid turbulence on two sides of small-pore filters  as a function of pore size. And he found out that “superfluid turbulence does not pass through filters of 7.5 nm diameter, but penetrates filters with 50-nm pores.”

In his doctoral apprenticeship at the University of Colorado, Boulder,  Larry Foreman learnt the experimental basics of low temperature physics (or cryogenic) work. Together with his engineering physics knowledge learnt at South Dakota State University, he later applied all his knowledge of physics and engineering science to the area of target fabrication for fusion purposes.

We note in passing that fusion science cannot do without cryogenic and the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) would be unthinkable without the knowledge derived from low temperature physics (specially superconductivity and superfluidity).

Low temperature physics is a field of physics that was started in the Netherlands by the Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926) in about 1905. However, we should acknowledge that before him there were other “fellow cold pioneers” (Louis-Paul Cailletet, Raoul Pictet, James Dewar and, among others, Zygmunt von Wroblewski).

Left: A view of Kamerlingh Onnes’ Laboratory. Right: Kamerlingh Onnes in his lab with Dutch physicist J. D. Van Der Waals (right). Source: Right: Newsline; Left: American Institute of Physics.


Previously, on November 11, 1882, in a lecture given when he was appointed professor of experimental physics at the University of Leiden, Netherlands, Kamerlingh Onnes presented his vision on science. The title of his lecture was The Significance of Quantitative Investigations in Physics. In this lecture, he coined his famous phrase door meten tot weten (Through measurement to knowledge).

In order to carry out his research to investigate how materials behave when cooled to nearly absolute zero, Kamerlingh Onnes built one of the largest physics laboratories in the early 1900s, the Cryogenic Laboratory at Leyden, which included a school to train technicians to maintain the cryogenic equipment and facilities for instrument makers and glass blowers. For more details, see van Delft, Dirk (2014). The Cryogenic Laboratory of Heike Kamerlingh Onnes: An Early Case of Big Science, in Gavroglou, K. (Ed.). History of Artificial Cold, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Issues. Springer. pp. 65-82).

Kamerlingh Onnes was the first to liquefy helium (He), on July 10, 1908 when he managed to reach the temperature of −270 °C (about 4 K or −452.2 °F) and he later discovered superconductivity (the disappearance of resistance in an electric current), in 1911 when he used liquid helium to cool mercury (Hg). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1913. For more historical details, see the Archive of the Kamerlingh Onnes Laboratory.

Larry Ray Foreman came into being as a person, in part, because of his Dutch ancestors, and as a physicist, in part, because of the work carried out 70 years earlier by one Dutch physicist, Kamerlingh Onnes. We are left wondering if Larry Foreman ever gave a thought to this flowing and confluence of people and ideas from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the land of his ancestors.

The Publications and Patents of Larry Ray Foreman

Peer reviewed papers

(1) Foreman, Larry, and Snyder, Howard. “The penetration of superfluid turbulence through porous filters.” Journal of Low Temperature Physics 34, no. 5 (1979): 529-538.

(2) J. K. Hoffer and L. R. Foreman, “Radioactively induced sublimation in solid tritium,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 60, 1310 (1988).

(3) Foreman, L. R., and J. K. Hoffer. “Solid fuel targets for the ICF reactor.” Nuclear fusion 28, no. 9 (1988): 1609.

(4) Hoffer, J. K., and L. R. Foreman. “Uniform solid deuterium–tritium fuel layers resulting from radioactively induced sublimation.” Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology A: Vacuum, Surfaces, and Films 7, no. 3 (1989): 1161-1164.

(5) Foreman, Larry R., and James K. Hoffer. “Fabrication of ICF reactor targets based on symmetrization of solid fuel.” Laser and Particle Beams 8, no. 1-2 (1990): 197-201.

(6) Hoffer, James K., Larry R. Foreman, John D. Simpson, and Ted R. Pattinson. “The effects of exchange gas temperature and pressure on the beta-layering process in solid deuterium-tritium fusion fuel.” Physica B: Condensed Matter 165 (1990): 163-164.

(7) Simpson, J. D., J. K. Hoffer, and L. R. Foreman. “Beta-layering of solid deuterium-tritium in a spherical polycarbonate shell.” Fusion Science and Technology 21, no. 2P2 (1992): 330-333.

(8) Gobby, P. L., M. A. Salazar, H. Bush, V. A. Gurule, L. R. Foreman, G. C. Abell, J. T. Gill, R. E. Ellefson, and M. H. Sowders. “A small volume tritium monitor and fill system.” Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment 334, no. 1 (1993): 88-92.

(9) Foreman, Larry R., Peter Gobby, Jacob Bartos, P. Michael Brooks, Harry Bush, Veronica Gomez, Norman Elliott et al. “Hohlraum manufacture for inertial confinement fusion.” Fusion Science and Technology 26, no. 3P2 (1994): 696-701.

(10) Salazar, McA, P. L. Gobby, L. R. Foreman, H. Bush Jr, V. M. Gomez, J. E. Moore, and G. F. Stone. “Gas-filled hohlraum fabrication.” Fusion Science and Technology 28, no. 5 (1995): 1815-1819.

(11) Salzer, Leander J., Veronica M. Gomez, Joyce Moore, Jacob J. Bartos, Peter Gobby, and Larry Foreman. “Machining sub-millimeter beryllium and aluminum components of laser targets.” Fusion Science and Technology 28, no. 5 (1995): 1829-1832.

(12) Sheliak, John D., James K. Hoffer, Larry R. Foreman, and Evan R. Mapoles. “High-resolution optical measurements of surface roughness for beta-layered deuterium-tritium solid inside a re-entrant copper cylinder.” Fusion Science and Technology 30, no. 1 (1996): 83-94.

(13) Salzer, Leander J., Larry R. Foreman, and Robert D. Day. “The Quick-Flip Precision Locator for Micro Machining.” Fusion Science and Technology 31, no. 4 (1997): 477-481.

(14) Gobby, P. L., L. J. Salzer, R. D. Day, J. J. Bartos, G. Rivera, D. J. Hatch, F. P. Garcia, R. Manzanares, L. R. Foreman, and H. Bush. “Micromachining of inertial confinement fusion targets.” Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment 397, no. 1 (1997): 183-188.

(15) Douglas C. Wilson, Paul A. Bradley, Nelson M. Hoffman, Fritz J. Swenson, David P. Smitherman, Robert E. Chrien, Robert W. Margevicius, D. J. Thoma, Larry R. Foreman, et. al. “The development and advantages of beryllium capsules for the National Ignition Facility.” Physics of Plasmas 5, no. 5 (1998): 1953-1959

(16) Dittrich, Thomas R., S. W. Haan, M. M. Marinak, S. M. Pollaine, D. E. Hinkel, D. H. Munro, C. P. Verdon et al. “Review of indirect-drive ignition design options for the National Ignition Facility.” Physics of Plasmas 6, no. 5 (1999): 2164-2170.

(17) Margevicius, R. W., L. J. Salzer, M. A. Salazar, and L. R. Foreman. “Toward the fabrication of a NIF target via hemisphere joining.” Fusion Technology 35, no. 2 (1999).

Chapters in books
Foreman, L. R. “Microengineering of Materials: Laser Fusion Targets,” Encyclopedia of Materials Science and Engineering, Supplementary Vol 2, Robert W. Cahn ed. (September 14, 1990): 1067-75.

Conference Proceedings and LANL Reports
(1) Foreman, L. R. “Decay of Turbulence in He-2 Induced by Shear-Flow.” In Bulletin of the American Physical Society, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 49-50, American Institute of Physics, (1978).

(2) Williams, J. M., and L. R. Foreman. “Parylene coated microspheres: Operational parameters and round robin results.” No. LA-UR-88-849; CONF-8710302-1-Vugraphs. Los Alamos National Lab., NM (USA). (1987).

(3) McDonald, T. E., D. C. Cartwright, S. V. Coggeshall, C. A. Fenstermacher, J. F. Figueira, L. R. Foreman, P. D. Goldstone et al. “Recent progress in the Los Alamos KrF program.” The cover picture shows the inside of the target chamber of the NOVA Laser. By courtesy of the Inertial Confinement Fusion Program of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. (1988): 119.

(4) Younger, S. M., I. Bigio, M. Cray, L. R. Foreman, and J. M. Mack. “Inertial confinement fusion research at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.” In Plasma physics and controlled nuclear fusion research 1992. V. 3. 1993. Proceedings of an International Conference Held in Wuerzburg, Germany, 30 September – 7 October 1992.

(5) Goforth, J. H., W. E. Anderson, R. R. Bartsch, J. F. Benage, R. L. Bowers, J. H. Brownell, J. C. Cochrane et al. The Los Alamos Trailmaster Program: Status and Plans. No. LA-UR-92-3.(1992)

(6) Hoffer, J. K., L. R. Foreman, E. R. Mapoles, and J. D. Simpson. Forming a “perfectly” uniform shell of solid DT fusion fuel by the beta-layering process. No. LA-UR–92-2786; CONF-920913–14; IAEA-CN–56/G-3-4. Los Alamos National Lab., NM (United States). (1992).

(7) Hoffer, James K., Larry R. Foreman, Evan R. Mapoles, John D. Simpson, and Jane B. Gibson. “High resolution optical measurements of beta‐layering in D‐T.” In AIP Conference Proceedings, vol. 318, no. 1, pp. 246-247. AIP. (1994).

(8) Gobby, P. L., L. R. Foreman, D. J. Thoma, L. A. Jacobson, R. V. Hollis, J. Barrera, M. A. Mitchell, M. A. Salazar, and L. J. Salzer. Current progress in NIF target concepts. No. LA-UR–96-3119; CONF-9606116–83. Los Alamos National Lab., NM (United States). (1996).

(9) Hoffer, James K., Larry R. Foreman, Jorge J. Sanchez, Evan R. Mapoles, and John D. Sheliak. “Surface roughness measurements of beta-layered solid deuterium-tritium in toroidal geometries.” Fusion Technology 30, no. CONF-9606116. (1996).

(10) Foreman, L. R., R. S. Barbero, D. W. Carroll, T. Archuleta, J. Baker, D. Devlin, J. Duke, David Loemier, and Mitch Trukla. Diamond and Diamond-Like Materials as Hydrogen Isotope Barriers. No. LA-UR-99-3018. Los Alamos National Lab., NM (US). (1999).

Larry Ray Foreman is also listed as the co-inventor of five patents assigned to the Regents of the University of California (until 2007, the University of California operated LANL for the U. S. Department of Energy):

(1) Fixture for mounting small parts for processing(1990)

(2) Intraocular lens fabrication (1997)

(3) Smart tool holder (1998)

(4) Reversible micromachining locator (1999)

(5) Reversible micromachining locator(2002)

(5) In Lieu of a Conclusion

The time has come to end this report on the results — the digital fragments — discovered about the life of Larry Ray Foreman using only Internet and social media networks and applying the DHS (Digital Historical Sounding) methodology. This investigation started off with this tiny bit of information:  “Larry Foreman; US citizen; First chairman of UNET Physics Department; Time period: 1975-1977.” Surely, we now know a great deal more about him since we heard his name for the first time in 2013 but there are still many things we don’t know about him.

For instance, we don’t know the date when he joined LANL and besides his scientific publications we do not have a clear picture of the progress of his scientific career within LAN; we have no inkling as to what he thought about his Venezuelan experience —he arrived knowing little Spanish but, some sources told us, left Venezuela being able to communicate well in Cervantes’ language; we could not find any pictures of his mother, his Ph. D. advisor Prof. Snyder and of himself in his mature years; we know very little about his years as a graduate student at the University of Colorado – Boulder and about his other activities at the University of Colorado; we know very little of his time spent teaching at the Mechanical Engineering Department of the University of Colorado (after he returned from Venezuela) and at the University of Minnesota; and, sadly, our investigation had little to say about many of his activities in Venezuela.

Because we did not find any pictures of Larry Ray Foreman as a matured scientist (though we did chased for the October issue of LANL’s magazine for employees and retirees, Los Alamos Reflections that each October presents the pictures of LANL employees who are recognized with Los Alamos Distinguished Performance Award but the issues available online are few in number), to this investigation he only appears to us in all his youth, with the beaming smile shown in his senior 1966 yearbook picture, and his clownish 1972 Weary-Willie countenance.

We have studied his genealogy and his family background, and reviewed his education and science. Yet, we know little about the kind of person he was. We understand he was a person of many diverse abilities and interests. He was a man who like to take on leadership and editing roles. We know he liked sports (he was a high school letterman and in Los Alamos he participated in the development of youth athletic programs); he enjoyed military activities (he participated in the Air Force ROTC program and maybe he joined the Air Force for a short time); he liked to sing (he was a member of several coral groups at BHS and of the Statesmen at SDSU); and there must have been some special affinity with the music of Bob Dylan. Had he been alive, he must have been delighted at Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature (“for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition. “)

But, who was really the man named Larry Ray Foreman? We regret we cannot say it. So, this is why this work is only a rough sketch – nada más que un boceto – about his life.  However, as it is often happens in our research initiative VES Project, upon reading this essay some people who knew Larry Ray Foreman in person might feel motivated to come forth to contact us and comment on this work, thereby providing additional information that will be fed back into our DHS methodology to review this essay in a — let us hope — not a distant future.

Larry Ray Foreman’s grave marker at Guaje Pines Cementery (Section 6, Lot 322), Los Alamos, NM. Source:  J. Fabryka

We can only finish this long essay by quoting Larry Ray Foreman’s epitaph on his grave, in Guaje Pines Cementry, in Los Alamos: “And Dance Beneath A Diamond Sky With One Hand Waving Free”, and leaving here for you the very song from which the epitaph is taken from.

“Mr. Tambourine Man”, sang, in July 1964, at the Newport Folk Festival, in Rhode Island, by a young singer-poet who, then, had no idea that one day would received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

That’s all folks!

(6) Acknowledgments

I have many people and institutions to thank for their help with this work. To UNET physicist Dr. Javier González -Estévez for his interviewing on my behalf of Mathematics professor Ernesto Alejandro Rodríguez who was also at UNET in 1974. To Dr. Claudio Mendoza for a telephone conversation regarding his participation in the creation of UNET Physics Department. My heartfelt thanks go to the libraries, librarians and archivists of the University of Colorado (Boulder), South Dakota State University (SDSU), and Northwestern University. In particular, I am especially grateful to Erika Klein (of Colorado), Crystal J. Gamradt (of SDSU), and Brittan Nannenga (of Northwestern) for their remote assistance in finding information about Larry Foreman. Thanks to all my friends who read portions of this essay. I am especially indebted to Isabel Zubizarreta for her editorial assistance with a substantial portion of this work. Any errors and mistreatments of Shakespeare’s language are mine alone. Finally, I would like to thank all  supporters of VES Project who make this work possible. I’m so grateful for your help.  In particular, I, hereby, acknowledge the continued support of Dr. Carlos Elio Mora to whom I dedicate this essay. ¡Gracias, amigo!

Dear  Reader

If you have read this far, I give you my heartfelt thanks! Would you care to comment our essay? Our readers comments are very valuable to us. To make comments, you have to go to the landing page of this essay and scroll down.

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José G. Álvarez Cornett (Twiter: @Chegoyo)
Member of COENER,  and the “Physics and Mathematics for Biomedical Consortium“. Teacher of History of Physics and Cultural History of Science at the School of Physics, Faculty of Science, Central University of Venezuela and Alumni Representative before the School of Physics Council.

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