Fusion Science

Fusion Science is a broad and rich research area aimed at understanding and controlling high-performance, steady-state fusion plasmas suitable for creating net fusion energy. Fusion Science covers areas relevant to taming the plasma-wall interface, including materials science and plasma material interactions; developing advanced measurement and control techniques, including learning how to avoid transient events that disrupt plasma operations; and testing and developing predictive models for fusion plasma performance optimizations, leveraging a wide array of experimental measurements, theory, and simulation. Fusion Science is tightly coupled with Fusion Technology, with overlapping research interests aimed at accelerating the high-field path to fusion.

Fusion Science research at the PSFC is focused on five topical areas: boundary plasma science and divertor physics, pedestal and edge physics, core physics, plasma waves, and disruption prediction and mitigation. These five topical science areas are complemented by the cross-cutting thrusts of plasma heating and current drive, and plasma turbulence. In addition, scientists at the PSFC participate in working groups that focus on developing high-performance, naturally ELM-free operating regimes (one in particular known as I-mode), and that focus on expanding applications of machine learning and advanced algorithms to core and edge physics, and disruption physics.


Dr. Earl Marmar


Plasma heating & current drive

RF heating and current drive research at the PSFC focuses on two techniques in particular. The Lower hybrid range of frequency (LHRF) has been identified as one of the most promising sources for off-axis current drive with its high efficiency and the proper current profile, while Ion cyclotron range of frequency power (ICRF) provides efficient bulk heating and promising flow drive.

Plasma turbulence

Small fluctuations in tokamak plasmas lead to turbulence, and turbulent eddies can very effectively transport heat from the hot core across confining magnetic field lines out to the cooler plasma edge, degrading the plasma performance. Predicting this phenomenon of turbulent-transport is essential for the understanding and development of fusion reactors.