Ph.d. student interviews part 8

The fascinating complexity of fusion research

Ole Meyer, Ph.D. student at the University of Innsbruck

What is the topic of your Ph.D. thesis? 

„Multi-species gyrofluid tokamak turbulence“.

What is the focus of your research?

With the help of numerical simulations we investigate the “isotope effect” in tokamak plasmas. A commercial fusion plasma consists of deuterium-tritium blend, which is heavier than pure protium or deuterium discharges. Many of the previous findings about the behavior of plasma turbulence in the edge layer of tokamaks were reached with “lighter” plasma mixtures. Experiments show that for example turbulent heat- and particle transport does not scale with the ion mass as theoretically anticipated.

What is the benefit for fusion research?

In ITER and DEMO, a deuterium-tritium mixture is to be used as a fuel. A better understanding would be helpful for the efficient use of these experiments. Especially the diagnostic procedures should provide information about the underlying physics, because both light and heavy plasmas can be generated.

What are the biggest challenges?

In order to be able to make good statistical predictions, it takes long time series, which in turn are associated with a large computer expenditure. For the results in my dissertation we used a local model to produce long time series relatively economically. Thereby, accuracy gets lost compared to global models, which are being worked on in our research group. Currently these have still long time spans.

Which plans do you have for your future? What will you do in 5 years? Would you like to continue research or are you going to work in industry?

I would like to stay in the research field, however, it is not easy to find appropriate positions. A lot can happen during 5 years. I hope that I manage to find a position as a researcher until then.

What was your motivation to write a fusion relevant Ph.D. thesis? What is fascinating about nuclear fusion?

While I was writing my master thesis, I gained a first insight into nuclear fusion research and I wished to obtain a deeper understanding. A fusion relevant doctoral thesis is a good opportunity to deal with many different and interesting physical mechanisms. What is really fascinating about fusion research is the complexity of the fusion research programme where we investigate with many different methods and techniques on phenomena, which are crucial for the success of fusion research.