Using artificial intelligence to speed up and improve the most computationally-intensive aspects of plasma physics in fusion

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) are using artificial intelligence to perfect the design of the vessels surrounding the super-hot plasma, optimize heating methods and maintain stable control of the reaction for increasingly long periods.

Adding just enough fuel to the fire

PPPL researchers have determined the maximum density of uncharged particles at the edge of a plasma before certain instabilities become unpredictable. This is the first time such a level has been established for Lithium Tokamak Experiment-Beta. Knowing this level is a big step in their mission to prove lithium is the ideal choice for an inner-wall coating in a tokamak because it guides them toward the best practices for fueling their plasmas.

One way to improve a fusion reaction: Use weaknesses as strengths

Scientists are using the imperfections in magnetic fields that confine a fusion reaction to improve and enhance the plasma in an approach outlined in a new paper in the journal Nature Communications. PPPL Physicist Seong-Moo Yang led the research team, which spans various institutions in the U.S. and South Korea. Yang says this is the first time any research team has validated a systematic approach to tailoring magnetic field imperfections to make the plasma suitable for use as a power source. These magnetic field imperfections are known as error fields.

US-Japan fusion materials collaboration marks 40 years of progress

Creating energy the way the sun and stars do — through nuclear fusion — is one of the grand challenges facing science and technology. What’s easy for the sun and its billions of relatives turns out to be particularly difficult on Earth.
On Earth, scientists must generate, confine and sustain a superhot gas called plasma — heated to 10 times the temperature of the center of the sun — to cause a fusion reaction. Although terrestrial plasmas can be confined magnetically, what materials can withstand near such high temperatures and the relentless impact of energetic neutrons? That question is central to the development of economical fusion power plants to provide abundant and carbon-free energy.
Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been working with Japanese scientists under the Japan-U.S. Fusion Cooperation Program for decades to determine the answer.

UAH researchers win awards totaling $750K to advance steps toward “holy grail” fusion clean energy project

Mechanical and aerospace engineering faculty at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) have won a pair of research awards totaling $750,000 to collaborate with the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) on research to advance knowledge toward one of the most sought-after goals of plasma physics, plasma fusion energy. This project marks the first experimental collaboration between the university and the LANL, helping to bring fusion and high energy density (HED) plasma research to UAH, a part of The University of Alabama System.

Media Tip: Scientists use Argonne accelerator to study star-like environment created during National Ignition Facility laser shots

The recent achievement of fusion ignition at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) marks a monumental scientific step in controlling the physics involved in the quest for future limitless clean energy.

Imposing Chaos on Magnetic Fields Suppresses Runaway Electrons in a Fusion Plasma

Researchers are using smaller tokamaks and computer models to test approaches for suppressing runaway electrons. This research used measurements and modeling to demonstrate that perturbations to the magnetic field in a tokamak fusion plasma can suppress high-energy runaway electrons. The results could help improve the operation of ITER and other future fusion devices.

Advisory Committee Releases Strategic Plan for U.S. Fusion, Plasma Program

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC) has adopted and endorsed a new report that lays out a strategic plan for fusion energy and plasma science research over the next decade. The report has been…

General Atomics Completes Fabrication and Testing of First ITER Central Solenoid Module

After nearly five years of fabrication and a battery of rigorous testing and troubleshooting, General Atomics (GA) has completed the first major milestone in one of the United States’ largest contributions to the ITER fusion project in France. The first module of the ITER Central Solenoid will join six others still in fabrication to make up the largest pulsed superconducting magnet in the world. The Central Solenoid will play a critical role in ITER’s mission to establish fusion as a practical, safe and nearly inexhaustible source of clean, abundant and carbon-free electricity.

DIII-D Scientists to Work with PPPL to Find a Path to Sustained Fusion Energy

Researchers from the DIII-D National Fusion Facility are preparing to support their colleagues at the National Spherical Tokamak Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U) at the U.S Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in a quest to develop sustained fusion energy. Under recently announced DOE funding programs, two teams at DIII-D will perform research on physics and instrumentation for NSTX-U as the facility’s staff work to restart operations late next year.

Scientists develop forecasting technique that could help advance quest for fusion energy

An international group of researchers has developed a technique that forecasts how tokamaks might respond to unwanted magnetic errors. These forecasts could help engineers design fusion facilities that create a virtually inexhaustible supply of safe and clean fusion energy to generate electricity.

Scientists Solve Key Challenge for Controlling “Runaway” Electrons in Fusion Plasmas

Scientists at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility have for the first time studied the internal structure and stability of high-energy runaway electron (RE) beams in a tokamak. The finding could provide a way to control the damaging potential of RE beams and could contribute to future power production using tokamak fusion power plants.

DIII-D Researchers Use Machine Learning to Steer Fusion Plasmas Near Operational Limits

Researchers at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility recently achieved a scientific first when they used machine learning calculations to automatically prevent fusion plasma disruptions in real time, while simultaneously optimizing the plasma for peak performance. The new experiments are the first of what they expect to be a wave of research in which machine learning–augmented controls could broaden the understanding of fusion plasmas. The work may help deliver reliable, peak-performance operation of future fusion reactors.

Blowing bubbles: PPPL scientist confirms novel way to launch and drive current in fusion plasmas

PPPL physicist Fatima Ebrahimi has used high-resolution computer simulations to confirm the practicality of the CHI start-up technique. The simulations show that CHI could produce electric current continuously in larger, more powerful tokamaks than exist today to produce stable fusion plasmas.