Plasma oscillation has fusion energy implications

March 20, 2024, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Researchers from the University of Rochester in New York and the University of California–San Diego have published a paper in Physical Review Letters describing a previously unknown class of plasma oscillations. In “Space-Time Structured Plasma Waves,” the researchers “demonstrate that electrostatic wave packets structured with space-time correlations can have properties that are independent of the plasma conditions,” such as “density, temperature, ionization state, or details of the distribution functions.” This finding is technologically relevant, the authors note, because “electrostatic waves play a critical role in nearly every branch of plasma physics from fusion to advanced accelerators, to astro, solar, and ionospheric physics.”

AI can predict and prevent fusion plasma instabilities in milliseconds

March 4, 2024, 2:59PMNuclear News
The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. (Photo: PPPL)

A team of engineers, physicists, and data scientists from Princeton University and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have used artificial intelligence (AI) to predict—and then avoid—the formation of a specific type of plasma instability in magnetic confinement fusion tokamaks. The researchers built and trained a model using past experimental data from operations at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility in San Diego, Calif., before proving through real-time experiments that their model could forecast so-called tearing mode instabilities up to 300 milliseconds in advance—enough time for an AI controller to adjust operating parameters and avoid a tear in the plasma that could potentially end the fusion reaction.

New coating could aid development of compact fusion reactors

January 8, 2024, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
From left, engineer Jeremiah Kirch, postdoctoral researcher Mykola Ialovega, and assistant scientist Marcos Xavier Navarro-Gonzalez pose in front of the WHAM device at UW-Madison. (Photo: Mykola Ialovega)

A new type of cold spray coating, made from the metal tantalum and applied to the plasma-facing steel walls of fusion reactors, could lead to efficient, compact fusion reactors that are easy to repair and maintain, according to a study recently published in the journal Physica Scripta. The study was led by scientists and engineers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and involved researchers from South Korea, France, and Germany.

Equipped with armor tiles, DIII-D takes “negative triangularity” plasma to new highs

April 26, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News
A side-by-side comparison of a standard plasma configuration (at left) and the plasma created during the negative triangularity campaign at DIII-D, which was made possible by the installation of a temporary divertor region. (Image: General Atomics)

The DIII-D National Fusion Facility in San Diego, Calif., has completed a monthlong research campaign using a negative triangularity plasma configuration inside its fusion tokamak and produced initial data that “appear very encouraging,” according to an April 24 news release from General Atomics (GA), which operates the Office of Science user facility on behalf of the Department of Energy. Full experimental results on “the highest-powered negative triangularity experiments in the history of the U.S. fusion research program” are expected this summer, according to GA.

U.K. and U.S. national laboratories fuse interests in plasma partnership

March 21, 2023, 3:08PMNuclear News
The UKAEA will provide novel fusion materials to be irradiated in ORNL’s HFIR facility over the next four years. Pictured (from left) are Kathy McCarthy, director of the U.S. ITER Project; Jeremy Busby, ORNL’s associate lab director for fusion and fission energy and science; Mickey Wade, ONRL Fusion Energy Division director; Ian Chapman, chief executive officer of the UKAEA; Cynthia Jenks, ORNL’s associate lab director for physical sciences; and Yutai Kato, ORNL Materials Science and Technology Division interim director.

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) have formed a strategic research partnership to investigate how different types of materials behave under the influence of high-energy neutron sources. The five-year partnership was announced by ORNL and by the UKAEA on March 13.

The state of U.S. Fusion

August 19, 2022, 2:56PMNuclear NewsCami Collins
The first sector of the ITER vacuum vessel was placed in the assembly pit in May. Here, a technician positions targets on the surface of the component to be used in laser metrology. (Photo: ITER Organization)

Delivery of electricity from fusion is considered by the National Academies of Engineering to be one of the grand challenges of the 21st century. The tremendous progress in fusion science and technology is underpinning efforts by nuclear experts and advocates to tackle many of the key challenges that must be addressed to construct a fusion pilot plant and make practical fusion possible.

DOE puts $9.35 million toward high-energy-density plasma research

July 29, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Invisible infrared light from the 200-trillion-watt Trident Laser at Los Alamos National Laboratory interacts with a 1-micrometer thick foil target (in the center of the photo) to generate a high-energy-density plasma. (Photo: Joseph Cowan and Kirk Flippo, LANL)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE-SC) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on July 27 announced $9.35 million for 21 research projects in high-energy-density laboratory plasmas. High-energy-density (HED) plasma research, originally developed to support the U.S. nuclear weapons program, has applications in astrophysics, fusion power plant development, medicine, nuclear and particle physics, and radioisotope production.

U.K. and Chinese national fusion programs can take the heat

June 3, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News
Plasma in MAST. (Photo: UKAEA/EUROfusion)

As governments around the world cooperate on the ITER tokamak and, in parallel, race each other and private companies to develop commercial fusion power concepts, it seems that “game-changing” developments are proclaimed almost weekly. Recently, the United Kingdom and China announced new fusion program results.

The year in review 2020: Research and Applications

January 8, 2021, 11:59AMNuclear News

Here is a look back at the top stories of 2020 from our Research and Applications section in Newswire and Nuclear News magazine. Remember to check back to Newswire soon for more top stories from 2020.

Research and Applications section