Simulations for nuclear fusion

The plasma inside a nuclear fusion reactor is prone to instabilities due to the extreme temperatures and high magnetic fields necessary for nuclear fusion. The future of nuclear fusion as an energy source depends on a large extent on methods to control these instabilities.

Publication date: 24-04-2015

The plasma inside a nuclear fusion reactor is prone to instabilities due to the extreme temperatures and high magnetic fields necessary for nuclear fusion. The future of nuclear fusion as an energy source depends on a large extent on methods to control these instabilities. Researcher Bram van Es (CWI/DIFFER) defended his thesis on modelling instabilities in fusion reactors on Wednesday 22 April at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e).

In order to design nuclear fusion reactors, detailed simulations need to be performed to understand the plasma's dynamics inside the reactor. Simulations are complicated by the fact that temperature and magnetic fields vary wildly over time and place. Particles in one part of the reactor can sometimes move over a billion times faster than those in other parts. Standard simulation methods are not equipped to operate within this range. Van Es has investigated and applied several novel simulation methods to these problems, improving the accuracy of simulations.

Nuclear fusion has the potential to be a limitless, clean and safe form of energy. The road to fusion contains many scientific and technological challenges. In the international ITER project, to which Van Es’s research contributes, the EU, Japan, South Korea, China, India, the US and Russia work together to demonstrate the technical feasibility of fusion as an energy source. The ITER reactor, currently under construction in Cadarache in France, is expected to become operational in 2025.

In this project CWI worked in close cooperation with the FOM Institute DIFFER, the Dutch institute for fundamental energy research and the national centre for fusion research. During his research, Van Es was affiliated with both CWI and DIFFER.

Image: Nuclear fusion reactor