Scientific & Computational Advances in Fusion Energy Research
As the current global energy economy focuses on alternatives to fossil fuels, there is increasing interest in nuclear fusion, the power source of the sun and other stars, as an attractive possibility for meeting the world’s growing energy needs. Progress has been impressive – leading to the $20B international burning plasma experiment known as ITER which is under construction in France and involves the partnership of 7 governments representing over half of the world’s population, including the UK and the US.
The fusion of light nuclides forms the basis of energy release in the universe, which can potentially be harnessed and used as a clean and sustainable supply of energy on Earth. In order to build the scientific foundations needed to develop fusion energy, a key need is the timely development of high-physics-fidelity predictive simulation capability for modern magnetically confined fusion plasmas. An outstanding problem is to minimize heat losses from such magnetic traps with “microturbulence“ believed to be the primary mechanism by which particles and energy diffuse across the confining magnetic field in toroidal fusion systems such as ITER. Understanding and possibly controlling the balance between these energy losses and the self-heating rates of the actual fusion reaction is key to achieving the efficiency needed to help ensure the practicality of future fusion power plants.
Advanced computing is generally recognized to be an increasingly vital tool for accelerating progress in scientific research in the 21st Century. The imperative is to translate the combination of the rapid advances in super-computing power together with the emergence of effective new algorithms and computational methodologies to help enable corresponding increases in the physics realism and the performance of the scientific codes used to model complex systems such as fusion reactors. If properly validated against experimental measurements and verified with mathematical tests and computational benchmarks, these codes can provide more reliable predictive capability for realistically simulating fusion-energy-relevant high temperature plasmas. Excellent progress has been made in developing advanced codes for which computer run-time and problem size scale very well with the number of processors on massively parallel supercomputers. Illustrative results from the effective usage of such systems to produce impressive fusion-relevant simulations will be presented.
Our General Interest Seminars are an opportunity for distinguished speakers to present new research in physics and related areas. The material presented is suitable for undergraduate level upwards and all members of the School are welcome to attend..