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University physicist to foster links with industry

Posted on 16 January 2012

The University of York has appointed a Plasma and Fusion Industrial Officer to foster links between the York Plasma Institute and industrial and academic partners.

Dr Kate Lancaster will work with industry in two key areas: collaborative research in plasma science for technological or bio-medical applications, and helping industry benefit from the ITER construction programme, which exceeds €10 billion.

Once established, the YPI’s laboratories will become a key UK plasma facility, available for use by industry and other universities

Dr Kate Lancaster 

An experimental fusion device under construction in southern France, ITER is a multinational facility that will answer the final questions on fusion energy before the construction of a demonstration fusion power plant. If the scientific and technological challenges can be overcome, fusion offers the potential for an effectively limitless supply of safe, environmentally friendly energy.

A key part of Dr Lancaster’s role will be to work with the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, who part-fund her position, to ensure UK industry is well-placed to benefit from lucrative ITER contracts.

Fusion energy employs plasmas that are hotter than the core of the Sun. Much lower temperature plasmas are also useful, with a wide range of technological applications including modification of material surfaces, etching (for example for the semiconductor chip industry) and large screen displays. Biomedical applications are also being researched, including treatment of wounds and novel sterilisation techniques.

The York Plasma Institute (YPI) in the University’s Department of Physics is a collaboration between the University of York and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) which aims to create a world-leading interdisciplinary plasma institute for the UK. YPI brings high temperature plasmas for fusion and laser-plasma interaction research together with low temperature technological plasmas under one roof, enabling synergies between the two disciplines to be exploited.

Dr Lancaster said: “I’m joining the York Plasma Institute at a very exciting time with the Institute’s dedicated laboratory building due for completion in spring this year. Once established, the YPI’s laboratories will become a key UK plasma facility, available for use by industry and other universities.

“I will be working with industrial and academic partners through a variety of means including workshops, collaborations, training and funding, developing undergraduate industrial placements, as well as exploring a plasma MSc course with an industrial context.”

Dr Lancaster’s background is in laser plasma interactions and laser driven fusion. She was awarded a PhD from Imperial College in Advanced Fast Ignition studies (laser driven fusion) in 2005 while based in the Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

She continued to work as a research scientist at Rutherford on the VULCAN laser until joining the University of York this month. As an active science communicator, her roles include lecturer for the GCSE Science Live national tour and Recorder for the Physics and Astronomy section of the British Science Festival.

Professor Howard Wilson, Director of the York Plasma Institute, said: “Developing strong collaborative links between the York Plasma Institute and industry is a high priority for us. We are delighted that Kate has joined us to lead this effort; with her technical expertise as well as her energy and enthusiasm, she is the ideal person to take on this key new role." 

Notes to editors:

  • For more information on the York Plasma Institute, Department of Physics, University of York visit
  • The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, investing £800 million a year in a broad range of subjects - from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering. Visit

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

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