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Like surfers catching ocean waves, particles within the hot, electrically charged state of matter known as plasma can ride waves that oscillate through the plasma during experiments to investigate the production of fusion energy. The oscillations can displace the particles so far that they escape from the doughnut-shaped tokamak that houses the experiments, cooling the plasma and making fusion reactions less efficient. Now a team of physicists led by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has devised a faster method to determine how much this interaction between particles and waves contributes to the efficiency loss in tokamaks.
Fusion, the power that drives the sun and stars, is the fusing of light elements in the form of plasma—the hot, charged state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei—that generates massive amounts of energy. Scientists around the world are seeking to replicate fusion on Earth for a virtually inexhaustible supply of power to generate electricity.
Method - Impact - Fusion - Physics - Plasmas
The method for helping to determine the impact on fusion, published in Physics of Plasmas, depends on how the particles in plasma get caught in the oscillations. Particles trapped in an oscillation can trace an oval-like path known as a resonant structure, whose width is a key factor. Determining the width of that structure is critical. "If you want to know how big an effect the resonance has on the plasma particles, you need to know the resonance width," said Roscoe White, a theoretical physicist at PPPL and lead author of the paper.
By running simulations on powerful PPPL computers, the researchers learned how a type of plasma vibration known as an eigenmode can deform the...
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