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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/L01663X/1
Title: EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in the Science and Technology of Fusion Energy
Principal Investigator: Wilson, Professor H
Other Investigators:
Gibson, Professor K Bradley, Professor JW Roberts, Professor SG
Sharples, Professor RM Mummery, Professor P
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Amec Foster Wheeler UK AWE Babcock International Group Plc (UK)
Culham Centre for Fusion Energy Fusion for Energy Joint Undertaking ITER - International Fusion Energy Org
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory National Nuclear Laboratory STFC Laboratories (Grouped)
Department: Physics
Organisation: University of York
Scheme: Centre for Doctoral Training
Starts: 01 April 2014 Ends: 30 September 2022 Value (£): 3,796,182
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation Plasmas - Laser & Fusion
Plasmas - Technological
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
23 Oct 2013 EPSRC CDT 2013 Interviews Panel P Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Fusion is the process that powers the sun. If we can harness fusion power on Earth, it would provide effectively limitless, carbon-free, safe energy. There are two approaches. In inertial fusion energy (IFE), high power lasers (or other 'drivers') compress a pellet of frozen deuterium-tritium fuel to very high density and temperature, confined for short times associated with the fuel's inertia (nanoseconds). The other approach, presently the more advanced, is magnetic fusion energy (MFE). Here the hot, low density fuel is held in a toroidal chamber using magnetic fields for confinement times of seconds.

When the fuel is heated to fusion temperatures (100,000,000K), the electrons are stripped from the nuclei, creating an ionised gas called a plasma. Plasmas are susceptible to a range of waves and instabilities that drive turbulence and degrade confinement. In MFE this determines the device size. For example, the 16Bn Euro ITER facility is large enough to give the required confinement despite the turbulence, providing a fusion yield of 10 times the applied heating power. Scheduled for completion in 2020, ITER will provide the first plasma with heating dominated by the energetic alpha particles produced by the fusion reactions, allowing the final physics questions to be answered to build a demonstration power plant, DEMO. For example, how do the alpha particles affect the plasma stability and turbulence, and how do we exhaust them from the plasma once they have cooled to avoid dilution extinguishing the fusion burn? The other fusion product is a 14MeV neutron to be captured in a blanket to extract its energy and react it with lithium to produce tritium. Understanding how materials behave under this energetic neutron irradiation, combined with exposure to hot plasma, is something we still know little about because ITER will be the first device to create these conditions. ITER will also address a range of fusion technologies, such as heating systems, tritium breeding blankets and exhaust handling: issues that integrate plasmas with materials.

The flagship IFE facility is NIF in the US. It tried to achieve fusion conditions during 2012, but did not succeed. The reasons require more research, but again plasma instabilities are a likely cause. Once the issues at NIF are resolved the priorities for future laser-based systems (e.g. HiPER) can be defined on the route to inertial fusion energy. Then the materials issues discussed above for MFE apply to IFE also. IFE creates extreme states of matter with high energy density that have important applications beyond energy. One is to create conditions suitable for benchmarking the computer codes that contribute to the UK's nuclear deterrent, avoiding the need for weapons testing: important in the strategy to avoid proliferation. AWE has recently commissioned a large laser facility, Orion, primarily for this purpose.

Fusion research interfaces with several fields. There are synergies with the nuclear industries where the next generation fission reactors will have high energy neutrons and so share some materials issues with fusion. Space plasmas share phenomena also found in MFE plasmas while energetic astrophysical phenomena can be simulated in the lab using high power lasers. In industry, low temperature plasmas with similar characteristics to those at the edge of a MFE plasma have applications in manufacturing, from advanced coating technologies to computer chips.

The focus of our CDT is fusion, training 5 cohorts, each of 15-16 PhD students, across the range of plasma, materials, IFE and MFE, as well as related fusion technologies. This will position the UK to take advantage of new high power laser and MFE facilities, advancing fusion energy. IFE, along with lab astrophysics, will develop skills relevant to the UK's national security strategy. Our training programme will seek to benefit other students in related fields, such as technological plasmas and nuclear materials.
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Organisation Website: http://www.york.ac.uk