Nuclear fusion power is the process of fusing light nuclei together to release energy, and ultimately, to put electricity on the grid. Today, we have six researchers from MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center here to answer your questions about fusion power, tokamaks, and public support and funding in the U.S. for this research. The Obama Administration's budget request for fiscal year 2013 is paying for the U.S. share of ITER construction out of the domestic program, starting with the closure of the MIT fusion lab. The interviewees are ready to answer technical and policy questions, so don't be shy! And, as always, please break unrelated questions into separate posts. Read on for information about the researchers who will answer your questions.Dr. Martin Greenwald is a Senior Scientist and Associate Director of the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center. His experimental work focuses on turbulence and transport, density limits, and pellet fueling of magnetically confined plasmas. More recently, Dr. Greenwald has been heavily involved with data management, computation, simulation, networks, and remote collaborations for fusion research.
Professor Ian Hutchinson is interested in plasma control in tokamaks, as well as spatially resolved measurements of the radiated power coming from the plasma. He is the author of the standard fusion textbook Principles of Plasma Diagnostics. Prof. Hutchinson also works on particle-in-cell simulations of astrophysical and laboratory plasmas.
Assistant Professor Anne White researches turbulence phenomena on the Alcator C-Mod tokamak, developing new diagnostics to resolve the small fluctuations which cause energy and particles to leak out. She is the recent recipient of the U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Award.
Professor Dennis Whyte pursues research into plasma–material interactions; that is, the way the hot plasma in a magnetic fusion reactor interacts with the surrounding solid materials walls. His team is also developing novel diagnostics for fusion nuclear science, which is critical as fusion reactors start producing power (and neutrons) over long periods of time.
Nathan Howard and Geoff Olynyk are Ph.D students on the Alcator C-Mod project. Nathan, who is in the final year of his studies, studies turbulent transport phenomena experimentally and through simulation. Geoff, in his fourth year, is working on disruption mitigation, which is a way to quickly and safely shut a tokamak plasma down in a few thousandths of a second.