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HomePhysicsDonald “Bruce” Montgomery, influential electromagnet engineer, dies at 89 » MIT Physics

Donald “Bruce” Montgomery, influential electromagnet engineer, dies at 89 » MIT Physics


Longtime MIT researcher and former affiliate director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Middle contributed to fusion vitality progress on campus and all over the world.

Donald “Bruce” Montgomery SM ’57, a extremely influential engineer and longtime MIT researcher whose profession was centered on the event of large-scale electromagnets, died on July 1. He was 89.

Montgomery’s contributions have been pivotal for quite a few main amenities in fusion vitality, within the design of magnets for particle accelerators for physics and medical functions, for magnetically levitated transportation, and in lots of different disciplines. He was a acknowledged worldwide chief in magnet design and fusion engineering, a member of the Nationwide Academy of Engineering, and recipient of quite a few awards together with the Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Analysis (1983) and the Fusion Energy Associates Distinguished Profession Award (1998).

Montgomery graduated with a BA from Williams Faculty and an MS from MIT within the Division of Electrical Engineering in 1957. In 1967 he obtained an ScD from the College of Lausanne.

Following his commencement from MIT he joined the employees of MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and shortly after started work on high-field magnets beneath Francis Bitter, famend magnet designer and founding father of the Nationwide Magnet Laboratory at MIT. Montgomery rose to turn out to be the affiliate director of what was later renamed the Francis Bitter Nationwide Magnet Laboratory. Throughout this era he authored the ebook “Solenoid Magnet Design: The Magnetic and Mechanical Features of Resistive and Superconducting Magnets,” which stays an ordinary reference.

A flip towards fusion

Montgomery’s experience was subsequent harnessed to a rising program in fusion vitality. Following the measurement of plasma temperatures exceeding 10 million levels within the Soviet T3 tokamak, a race was on to construct ever extra succesful magnetic confinement experiments. Working with Bruno Coppi of MIT’s physics division and Ron Parker from electrical engineering, Montgomery led a workforce that designed and constructed two tokamak gadgets able to working with magnetic fields as much as and exceeding 12 Tesla, nonetheless right now an unprecedentedly excessive magnetic subject for fusion analysis. The preliminary system, referred to as Alcator A, set a world report for the important thing plasma confinement metric. The follow-on system, Alcator C, prolonged this report within the Nineteen Eighties and gave confidence that plasma circumstances enough for a fusion energy plant might certainly be achieved.

The record-setting efficiency by each gadgets was made attainable by means of breakthrough magnet expertise developed with Montgomery’s perception and management. One can draw a straight line between these early breakthroughs in magnet expertise and the resultant scientific progress that they enabled to the additional evolution of magnet expertise being utilized in SPARC, an indication fusion system led by MIT and startup firm Commonwealth Fusion Programs that’s designed to provide extra vitality than it consumes.

Montgomery additionally had a well-recognized capacity to handle very giant tasks and to guide various teams of scientists, engineers, technicians, and college students. Consequently he was appointed chief engineer on a number of nationwide fusion system building tasks and had a management position within the early days of the worldwide fusion undertaking referred to as ITER. Within the 1990’s he led one of many three nationwide consortia groups vying to develop maglev expertise beneath the U.S. Division of Transportation Maglev Initiative.

Making a revolutionary cable

Whereas on the Nationwide Magnet Lab, Montgomery, Henry Kolm, and Mitch Hoenig invented the idea for the cable-in-conduit-conductor (CICC). In these early days of large-scale superconducting magnet analysis, large-bore, high-field superconducting magnets have been in-built a kind of brute-force methodology. These older designs have been unstable and unsuitable to the necessity for ever larger magnetic fields, and bigger sizes enhance the efficiency of magnetic confinement fusion machines. This expertise was impeding development, particularly for the tokamak’s poloidal subject magnets which have been required to ship quickly altering fields.

Montgomery, Kolm, and Hoenig solved these issues by combining many superconducting wires right into a cable, utilizing normal industrial gear, after which placing the cable inside a metal or different excessive energy metallic alloy tube (conduit). The magnet was cooled down and maintained at 4K by flowing supercritical helium throughout the conduit. Since every conductor could possibly be insulated towards excessive voltages, large-bore, high-field, high-stored magnetic vitality magnets could possibly be safely protected against quench. The robust metallic alloy conduit offered excessive mechanical energy distributed most optimally all through the winding cross-section. And the flowing helium offered wonderful warmth switch from all of the superconducting wires within the cable, leading to very excessive electrothermal stability, particularly for quick ramped magnets.

Though the CICC idea was deemed heretical throughout the worldwide utilized superconductivity neighborhood and dismissed as impractical, beneath Montgomery’s management the MIT group quickly developed and proved the idea. At the moment, each working fusion system on the planet that makes use of superconducting magnets employs this conductor, together with tokamaks (e.g., EAST, KSTAR, JT60-SA), helical machines (LHD), and stellarators (Wendelstein 7-X). It’s the baseline conductor design for ITER and has discovered utility in particle accelerators and magnetic levitation.

Exploring magnetic levitation and propulsion

Within the 1970’s, Montgomery and Kolm from the Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory collaborated with Richard Thornton from the MIT Division of Electrical Engineering in formulating the “magplane” idea of magnetic levitation and propulsion. An early demonstration of a mannequin scale system was constructed and examined on MIT’s athletic fields. Montgomery and Henry Kolm later based Magplane Know-how, Inc. (MTI) a small firm centered on creating superior functions of magnetic levitation and propulsion. A working model of this expertise was in-built China, the place it was used to ship coal from coal mines, avoiding the extreme coal mud and waste ensuing from open trucking automobiles. Within the 1980’s, Montgomery labored with Peter Marston and Mitch Hoenig, main an MIT workforce creating very large-scale superconducting magnets for magnetohydrodynamic electrical energy technology.

Engineers and scientists know that failure might be one of the best teacher. Montgomery took that lesson to coronary heart, diagnosing failure mechanisms in giant magnet techniques and authoring a number of meta-studies which analyzed and tabulated the underlying causes. This work allowed engineers to concentrate on probably the most important facets of their designs and contributed to the rising reliability of analysis magnets. After his retirement from MIT in 1996, Montgomery was the founder and president of MTECHNOLOGY Inc., an engineering consultancy which focuses on threat and reliability.

An engineer’s engineer

Joe Minervini, certainly one of Montgomery’s proteges, notes: “Bruce was thought of by me and most of the people who knew him to be an ‘engineer’s engineer.’ Though he at all times possessed a deep scientific understanding of the expertise downside he was attacking, he at all times appeared to formulate a superb however sensible engineering resolution. Over his lengthy profession at MIT, he demonstrated this again and again on lots of the most superior and difficult new applied sciences constructed round typical and superconducting magnets.”

Past the breadth of his technical contributions and dedicated mentorship, Bruce Montgomery will probably be remembered for his heat character and his calm, regular demeanor, which was of inestimable worth when issues obtained powerful — a standard incidence when pushing the envelope in analysis. He had a singular capacity to take management of contentious technical and administration discussions and to softly pull or push everybody to an efficient consensus and into motion. He will probably be sorely missed by his mates, household and colleagues.

Montgomery is predeceased by his spouse of 52 years, Nancy Ford Fenn, who handed away in 2006, and by Elizabeth Bartlett Sturges, with whom he spent many comfortable years till her passing in 2021. He’s survived by his son Timothy Montgomery and his spouse Susan of Scituate, Massachusetts; daughter Melissa Sweeny and her husband Tom of Groton, Massachusetts; in addition to his grandchildren, Jenna Sweeny, Christopher Sweeny, and Benjamin Sweeny.

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