NWO grant for new nuclear fusion reactor

July 16, 2019

Researcher Josefine Proll will investigate new ways to minimise turbulence in fusion reactors.

The plasma chamber in the stellarator (right) has a different shape from the plasma chamber in the tokamak reactor (left). This offers a number of advantages, in particular for the reduction of unwanted turbulence. However, it is also more difficult to model and analyse.
The plasma chamber in the stellarator (right) has a different shape from the plasma chamber in the tokamak reactor (left). This offers a number of advantages, in particular for the reduction of unwanted turbulence. However, it is also more difficult to model and analyse.

Energy from nuclear fusion is CO2-free, safe, and inexhaustible. However, it is extremely difficult to achieve. One of the biggest problems is the turbulence that dissipates heat from the reactor. TU/e researcher Josefine Proll has received a grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) to investigate new ways to minimize this turbulence. For this, she will use new computer models that run on advanced supercomputers.

 

 

In nuclear fusion, two or more atomic nuclei are combined into a heavier nucleus. If atoms of light elements such as hydrogen are fused, part of the mass is converted into energy. This energy can then be used for power generation. In contrast to nuclear fission, nuclear fusion does produce far less and less harmfullproduce nuclear waste. And it has the added advantage that the necessary resource (hydrogen) is abundant.

However, nuclear fusion faces some though challenges that have so far hindered its practical application. The extremely high temperatures involved (over 100 million degrees Celsius) mean that the plasma has to be isolated inside a magnetic field to prevent the containing wall from melting. A second key challenge is the turbulence in the reactor, that causes the generated heat to leak away from the plasma.

Stellarator

Josefine Proll, Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Physics at the TU/e, will use advanced computer models running on supercomputers to analyse how exactly this turbulence is created, and how it can be minimised. Her research focuses on the effect of magnetic fields in the so-called stellarator, a new type of reactor that is optimised for less turbulence.
 

The researcher is excited about the news. “This grant will allow our team to explore the physics of turbulence in nuclear fusion devices. The results will help improve the confinement in future devices, paving the way for a cheap and endless source of clean energy.”

The NWO grant for Proll is part of the NWO KLEIN Programme. KLEIN grants are intended for realising curiosity-driven, fundamental research of scientific urgency. They offer researchers the possibility to elaborate creative and risky ideas and to realise scientific innovations that can form the basis for the research themes of the future.
 

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Henk van Appeven
(Science Information Officer)