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MSc Fusion Energy - Project examples

After the taught element of the course, MSc students embark on a research project. Some previous MSc students describe their projects below.

Dissociation of Carbon Dioxide into Carbon Monoxide using low temperature atmospheric pressure plasmas

Steven Thomas

Global warming due to greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide is a growing world wide concern. As well as an overall reduction in the amount of CO2 produced, techniques for then minimising the amount of CO2 released have been proposed. One of those methods that has shown promising results is using low temperature, atmospheric pressure plasmas to dissociate CO2 molecules into carbon monoxide, a chemical that can then be sold in synthetic gases, adding value to otherwise wasteful products. If the plasmas can be operated using carbon neutral energy, such as wind, solar or fusion energy, then a good attempt at reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be made.

My project lined up perfectly with state of the art research that was, at the time, being undertaken by academics and PhD students at the YPI. My research was experimental using an atmospheric pressure plasma at temperatures around 300K. Using YPI labs equipment I varied the percentage of carbon dioxide in a CO2-Ar admixture gas, the rate of flow of gas through the plasma and the power deposited in the plasma to see how varying each would effect the yield of CO and the energy efficiency of the process. My results were able to accurately repeat the results of previous work conducted at the University of York, extend the operating range of those previous results, and then confirm the accuracy of results obtained by complex plasma simulations. My results also showed the best plasma operating parameters for either maximising the production of CO, or maximising energy efficiency of the process, as well as predict where higher maxima may lie and suggest suitable operating parameters for further investigation.

A Parametric Study of Fast Electron Transport 

Joe Owen 

High intensity lasers can produce a very energetic population of electrons, known as 'fast electrons'. Such electrons are characterised by having a velocity far exceeding that of the electrons in the medium in which they are travelling. They are responsible for the majority of the target heating through generation of a return current in the target which then causes ohmic heating. The study of fast electron transport was the focus of my MSc project, for which I was based at the Central Laser Facility in Oxfordshire. The project involved me running fast electron transport simulations using a hybrid particle-in-cell code to better understand heating of thin targets by the Vulcan Petawatt laser. My time at the CLF gave me great experience with managing a large set of simulations spanning a wide range of parameter spaces and planning a parametric study using a hybrid-PIC.

Spectroscopic determination of electron temperatures in low temperature plasmas relevant to the tokamak SOL

Ziad Chami

I am studying on the MSc in Fusion Energy after completing my undergraduate degree in Theoretical Physics at Exeter University. My MSc project is looking at accurately measuring temperature in plasmas of up 100,000k. It is both an interesting and exciting topic as it has direct relevance to current tokamaks such as the MAST scrape off layer (SOL). It is also nice to be able to apply concepts directly learnt during the year in modules such as Plasma Diagnostic Techniques to real world situations.

Vlasovian modelling of high harmonic generation

Christopher Davie

I'm a graduate from Manchester University, and came back to do physics after a couple of years in industry. My project is working towards a numerical simulation of the plasma jet experiment being worked on by others on the MSc.  It involves mathematically representing the important physics in the plasma jet, including some plasma physics and the interaction between the different components of the plasma and background gas, then solving these equations computationally.  To test it, measurable results will be extracted and compared to the experiment.

Optics debris considerations for HiPER

Christopher Fury

I am currently studying on the new MSc in fusion energy course at the University of York, with a 6 week placement at the Central Laser Facility, RAL. My project aims to measure the effects of neutron irradiation on optics like those used in the proposed laser confinement fusion project HiPER.

Drift wave instabilities in the York Linear Plasma Device

James Herring

Before coming to York, I did my undergraduate MPhys degree at Imperial College. My final year project was in the interaction of plasmas with high powered lasers. For my summer project, I'm investigating a type of instability known as a drift wave, inside the York Linear Plasma Device (YLPD). Drift waves are known as "the universal instability", and within magnetically confined plasmas, they play an important role in the turbulent transport of heat and particles. It is exciting to work on a machine like the YLPD, as it means that I can observe first hand plasma phenomena discussed in lectures.

Design and implementation of Doppler spectroscopy system

Steven Scribbins

Prior to undertaking the Fusion Energy MSc, I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of York, obtaining a BSc in Physics. For the MSc project, I've been working on placement at CCFE in Oxfordshire to develop a Doppler-shift spectroscopy diagnostic for implementation on the neutral beam injection system of MAST. This encompasses a large range of physical phenomena, including the behaviour of high energy particle beams, electromagnetism, optics, atomic fine structure, atomic spectral emission and kinetic theory of gases. When completed, the diagnostic will measure the proportions of energetically different particles in the beam. This information is then used to aid with the understanding of many aspects of fusion plasma behaviour, and is of key importance if neutral beams are to play a significant role in the future of fusion energy.

Computational modelling of plasma eruptions

Christos Stavrou

I joined the MSc having worked as a teacher of physics at a secondary school for 2 years. The MSc in Fusion Energy has been hugely enjoyable so far, providing the kind of challenge I missed outside academia.

I am currently working on my final project, "Computational Modelling of Plasma Eruptions." This is a project designed to help provide a better understanding of a type of explosive instability that needs to be controlled in future tokamaks (a tokamak is the name for a donut-shaped nuclear fusion device). My project involves looking at one of the leading theories proposed to explain this instability, working with one of the original creators of this theory! It also involves amending existing computer code and writing my own code to try and shed some more light into the causes of this instability. The motivation is, of course, to find a way to reduce or even eliminate this instability, as large tokamaks will not be able to survive its presence

Theory of drift waves in magnetised plasmas

Tom Williams

I first got interested in fusion while studying for my BSc in physics at York, and decided to return for the inaugural year of the MSc after living in Japan. My project focuses on the theoretical and computational modelling of drift waves; these are instabilities which are thought to produce turbulence in magnetised plasmas, with important consequences for tokamak fusion reactors. I'm really enjoying the challenge of applying the fundamental plasma theory and programming skills I've learnt over the course to understand a specific problem in detail and write a modelling code. Eventually, I hope to be able to compare my results to experimental data from York's linear plasma device.

Investigation of a low pressure discharge

Michael Bowes

Having completed my BSc in Physics at York and being interested in plasma physics as well as excited by the prospect of fusion energy as a future power supply, it was a natural progression for me to join the Fusion Energy MSc course.

My MSc project involves looking at the fundamentals of plasma physics diagnostics using a DC glow discharge tube. In a glow discharge tube, a plasma is generated by applying a potential difference of several hundred volts across a gas (Helium in this case) held at low pressure; a mechanism used in fluorescent lamps and plasma-screen televisions. In order to characterise the plasma, I am currently in the process of designing and building a Langmuir probe to measure parameters such as the plasma potential, electron density and electron temperature.

What attracted me most to this particular project was the opportunity to do some real hands-on science, that and actually being able to generate a visible plasma! So far, the project has provided me with valuable experience in both problem solving and of working in a professional laboratory environment.