Before coming to UL, Ted Kozman was Project Director for the largest superconductor magnets ever built. He now teaches at UL, and directs The Industrial Assessment Center, which was named a National Center of Excellence by the US Department of Energy.

Tell us about yourself.

I have 40 years of experience with the US Department of Energy, working at the National Research Laboratory. Along the way, I picked up the Outstanding Accomplishment Award from the American Nuclear Society for building the world's largest superconducting magnets.

Talk about that.

It was part of the Magnetic Fusion Energy Department at Lawrence Livermore Labs, in Livermore CA. We had to solve one of the two remaining engineering challenges required to make magnetic fusion work. We had to build magnets that could support a 1000 megawatt nuclear fusion reactor.

Explain fusion.

Typical nuclear energy is fission, where you split atoms to generate energy. It's inherently unsafe-- think Three Mile Island, Chernobyl.

With fusion, you're taking two hydrogen atoms and banging them together to create energy, and the "ash" that is left over is helium, an inert gas. So fusion is inherently safe. With fusion, if there is a plane crash or an earthquake, the chemicals are lighter than air and the process is stable by itself, so there's no fallout radiation. The output from fusion is heat, just like a nuclear fission reactor, which makes steam that turns turbines.

We still haven't solved the physics problems involved. We produced neutrons, but these were deuterium-deuterium reactions, so it was only about 1/10 the heat generation that deuterium-tritium would produce.

Fusion produces a lot of energy. Plasma fusion is what turns an an atom bomb into a hydrogen bomb. You're going from a few hundred kiloton device, to a ten megaton device, just by wrapping a hydrogen layer around the reaction.

So the magnets we built were the size and strength to contain that fusion reaction.

Tell us about the magnets.

Let me give you an example. On the Earth's surface, the magnetic field at any point is 1/2 gauss. To contain the plasma, the magnets we built produced as much as 250,000 gauss at their centers.

This was the largest superconductor magnet ever made. You can make them larger and more powerful by using resistive metal conductors, but they aren't very efficient.

How are superconducting magnets more efficient?

The heat produced and the power consumed with copper or aluminum wiring is too large. In 1974, using resistive magnets, the magnets and the power supply were estimated to cost $40 million, and most of that was to pay for the power sources that were available at that time. Using superconductor magnets, I managed to solve one of the existing fusion engineering problems, and significantly reduce the operating expense. For example, at 50% capacity the superconductor magnets pulled the same amount of electricity as a 50-watt light bulb.

Scientific American, Superconducting Magnets, Ted Kozman, Mechanical Engineering, University of LouisianaHow big were they?

The whole set of them were 300 feet long. Five of the 42 magnets in the system were each the size of Rougeau Hall. In fact, the design for the big ones made the cover of Scientific American. For an engineer, that's like making the cover of Rolling Stone.

We assembled them in the parking lot behind Lawrence Livermore, and it took took us three days to move them from the parking lot into the front entrance.

How big was the Lawrence Livermore facility?

It was one square mile, 250,000 square feet, with 11 floors. So the total floor space was 11 square miles.

You have to train these magnets, they expand when current is put through them, but they don't contract when the current is removed. The largest of these magnets was maybe 70 feet from the front of the building. When I turned it on the first time, we were trying to bring them up to 1/10th of full current. Before I got there, however, at the center line of the main road, out in front of the building, across the main parking lot, we had generated a level of 10 gauss, 20 times the Earth's surface magnetic field.

Lawrence Livermore's "Star Wars"/Strategic Defense Initiative project was ongoing in the building on the other side of us. When we started up those magnets, the hazards controls guys-- and a nuclear lab has a piss-pot of those-- came running over. Their project director, a physicist, called and said, "Kozman, you gotta shut it down, you're wiping out our data!" All of their oscilloscopes-- that's how long ago this was-- were going haywire. So the controls people said I had to put up warning signs whenever we fired it up.

If it had worked, with reactor grade plasma it would have produced 3 gigawatts of nuclear energy. Deuterium & tritium are naturally occurring in water. If we had been successful, 1 gallon of ocean water would have produced as much energy as 300 gallons of gasoline.

Where did you go after that?

From Lawrence Livermore, I became the Department Head of Mechanical Engineering at Berkeley Lawrence Livermore, so I went from Project Manger to baby sitter.

Why do you say that?

Because I had 300 faculty to baby-sit.

I prefer project management to people management. Remember the SDI physicist I mentioned? His name is Richard Briggs, he was the Provost at the Superconducting Super Collider facility in Dallas. If completed, SSC would have incorporated the largest magnets ever built, but used for accelerating particles rather than containing plasma. So Briggs calls me 4 or 6 years later, he says to me, "I'm the Deputy Director here, but I'm also the Project Manager, and that's not my field." So he brings me down as Project Manager.

At that time, Congress thought the project was going to cost $4 billion. I ran the numbers, figured the cost of every screw, and I told them it was going to be $8 billion.

By the way, the project was going to need about 10,000 magnets, each 51 feet long and 2 feet in diameter, weighing about 10 tons each.

Well, for an $8 billion project, the Congressional review went on for two weeks. I had to entertain all the Congressmen and their aids for all that time, but we got our approval through the Department of Energy for the $8 billion.

But this project was run by physicists. The director of the Super Collider project was Roy F. Schwitters, now at UT. So we're meeting with the University Research Association, all these physicist from across the US; the head of the URA at the time is Pief Panofsky, the Nobel Laureate from Stanford's Linear Accelerator Center.

Schwitters didn't care if this thing flew or not-- he had a job 100 miles south of there. I'm giving a presentation to them, and Schwitters gets up 10 minutes into it, asks me "What's with all the mundane project stuff?" He says, "Koz, what's the matter with you? Who do you think your customer is here?"

I said "The taxpayers are. Every man, woman and child in this country are each contributing $25 to this project."

He said, "I don't want to hear about all this cost of schedule B.S. I want to know what this is going to do for the research community. We're your customers."

I told him that there are about 2,500 particle physicists in the US. When each of them gives me a check for $3 million, then I'll believe they're my customers.

Next day, I was reduced to Engineering Manager on the project. After that, I came to UL in 1994.

Why did you come here?

I was working radially out from the University of Texas. Both of my kids had just completed their freshman year there. I gave myself 2 months to find a job somewhere else.

So we got you because you're impatient?

Yeah.

I understand that a section you head up here at UL has just been named a Center of Excellence by the US Department of Energy.

I'm the Director for The Industrial Assessment Center. We assess the energy use of local industry, and make recommendations to improve their energy efficiency.

The US Department of Energy funds us, we've gotten as much $240K/year in funding, but last year the DOE was cut so it was only $140K. I have several other grants I run through the Center to maintain it.

Anyway, they've just named us a Center of Excellence. There are 26 IAC's in the US, and only four that I know of are Centers of Excellence; the other three are Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, and the University of Massachusetts.

At the end of this year, in the 9 years since we've had the center, we will have performed 204 plant-wide assessments with more than 1500 recommendations totaling $110,000,000 per year in potential operating savings. More than ½ of our recommendations are implemented within 9 months of the assessment date.

Among the 26 centers, we average more recommendations, per site visit, than anyone else. The average number of recommendations is 4 or 5, but our team averages 11 in a typical report. We were the first in this fiscal year to recommend $1 million in efficiency savings to industry. Only the 4 Centers of Excellence reached that benchmark... but I still have 6 more reports to get out.

And it's great for the kids involved. 75% of them have gone into energy-related fields as their first engineering job.

Why do you think we've done so well?

Since we're in the oil patch, I think we've been inefficient.

So is it that they're inefficient, or you're good?

I'm good. I'm damned good.

But my students are better.

Tell us about your students.

I make them do all the training I never got when I was a student, like steam systems, air systems, energy use systems; what's right, what's efficient, and what's not. For instance, in an air system, a pinhole leak costs $1 grand a year... a steam system with the same leak is $10 grand a year. You've got to go out and look. I can only cover so much, so my students are the ones that comb the plants and come up with the recommendations. They're the ones that find the problems. They're just doing a better job than the kids in the other programs.

Why do you think that is?

For one, I treat them as colleagues, instead of students. With that, I try to take on interesting clients, Shell in Norco, Valero in Krotz Springs, Citgo in Lake Charles. Those are large plants, nobody else does the large plants. Consider that Citgo's energy bill was $180 million/year-- and they produce the energy. Probably the most unusual plant we worked with was Augur, 200 miles offshore. The kids & I took a helicopter ride out there, and spent a night on the rig. So the kids are interested in the projects.

In addition, our local kids just tend to work harder. Not just in school, but most of them have jobs as well.

They're just hard-working kids.