Links between basic plasma physics and fusion in Nature Physics

TORPEX © I. Furno / EPFL 2019

TORPEX © I. Furno / EPFL 2019

An article recently published by the Swiss Plasma Center in Nature Physics illustrates the value of basic plasma physics research and numerical simulations in the quest for fusion.

Starting from the premise that basic plasma physics and theoretical models are necessary to define the characteristics of future fusion reactors and that certain technological obstacles can also be overcome by improving our basic knowledge, Profs A. Fasoli, I. Furno and P. Ricci describe in Nature Physics the role of this type of basic research in the realization of fusion, through several results obtained in recent years.

They discuss in particular the experiments made on the TORPEX installation of the SPC, which made it possible to isolate a number of phenomena occurring in the plasmas in order to study them in detail. Examples include the characterization of the dynamics of 'blobs', macroscopic structures resulting from the turbulent evolution of plasma instabilities, and the possibility of controlling them as well as their influence on the propagation of microwaves in their vicinity.

The advantage of numerical simulations based on first principles is also highlighted, together with the need to validate these theoretical results with basic experiments, since the measurements of the modeled quantities are easier to carry out in small, dedicated devices rather than in more complex fusion facilities. The authors describe in particular the successful validation and verification of the model describing the propagation of microwaves in the vicinity of these blobs.

Finally, the authors explain how these various basic experimental facilities, dedicated to the study of particular phenomena, make it possible to select the models best describing each of these phenomena.