We join our colleagues in frontier plasma science laboratory research at the Basic Plasma Science Facility (University of California at Los Angeles), Magnetized Plasma Research Laboratory (Auburn University) and DIII-D National Fusion Facility at San Diego , in calling for your proposals to be submitted to MagNetUS.
Work at WiPPL will be featured at 2020 High-Temperature Plasma Diagnostics Conference
Two projects on MST have been selected for invited talks at the High-Temperature Plasma Diagnostics conference in May 2020:
Patrick VanMeter, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Robust analysis of space-, time-, and energy-resolved soft x-ray measurements of magnetically confined fusion plasmas
A new concept for a multi-energy soft x-ray (ME-SXR) diagnostic is being developed by a PPPL/WiPPL collaboration on the MST facility. This diagnostic is based on a custom calibration of a solid-state detector consisting of a 2D array of ∼100,000 pixels. The lower photon absorption cutoff energy can be independently set for each pixel. Results from MST illustrate how the detector can be used to study the evolution of thermal and impurity density profiles. Similar diagnostics will soon be installed on NSTX-U and WEST, including a hard x-ray variant based on a CdTe sensor. This diagnostic may eventually be applied to ITER, where small, non-perturbative diagnostics will be necessary for routine steady state operation.
Megan Eckart, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Microcalorimeter measurement of x-ray spectra from a high-temperature magnetically confined plasma
The LLNL/NASA x-ray microcalorimeter spectrometer installed on the MST facility has recorded x-ray photons emitted by aluminum impurity ions in a deuterium plasma. X-ray microcalorimeter development has been driven by space applications, where they have been used to make detailed measurements of astrophysical x-ray sources. The goal of this project is to adapt microcalorimeters for magnetic fusion energy research, and demonstrate the value of such measurements for fusion science. Microcalorimeter spectrometers combine the best characteristics of the x-ray instrumentation currently available on fusion devices: high spectral resolution similar to an x-ray crystal spectrometer, and the broadband coverage (0.1–12 keV) of an x-ray pulse height analysis system.
High-resolution x-ray microcalorimeter on MST
The effort to develop fusion for energy generation has been described as “bringing a star to earth.” Recently, a type of instrument similar to those being used to study the emission from hot, extraterrestrial plasma, such as from stars, black holes, and supernova remnants, has been installed on the MST experiment at UW-Madison to study hot terrestrial plasma.
This instrument, called an x-ray microcalorimeter spectrometer was commissioned on MST by a team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Wisconsin Plasma Physics Laboratory, and NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. The first run campaign with this instrument on MST, which took place during the last two weeks of August 2019, produced highly encouraging results, despite the challenge of observing a pulsed plasma in an electrically noisy environment. Expected lines from He-like aluminum ions (Al11+) were observed with acceptable resolution, and data was recorded for a variety of MST plasma conditions. The next steps are to further hone data analysis techniques, improve in-situ spectral calibration, and increase instrument flexibility to adapt to plasma conditions. The combination of high spectral resolution and broad spectral coverage provided by the spectrometer will provide plasma diagnostic capability important to the development of fusion.
This work was performed, in part, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract DE-AC52-07NA27344, based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Fusion Energy Sciences.
Steph Kubala wins Blewett Fellowship
WiPPL graduate student Steph Kubala has received a Blewett Fellowship from the American Physical Society (APS). After pausing her research to care for an ailing parent, Ms. Kubala has resumed her research, where she specializes on MST’s Thomson scattering diagnostic. Her thesis work focuses on characterizing how magnetic field fluctuations scale with Lundquist number, a parameter that characterizes magnetic fluctuations and the quality of confinement in the RFP plasma. The Blewett Fellowship will enable Ms. Kubala to continue her work toward completing her Ph.D.
Pursuing high thermal pressure plasmas with tangled magnetic fields
In February 2019, the Big Red Ball (BRB) was operated for an initial investigation of compact toroid (CT) collisions as proposed by a Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) group. LANL researchers Scott Hsu and Tom Byvank visited WiPPL to work with UW-Madison physics graduate student Doug Endrizzi on these experiments. A chief motivation for the work was a hypothetical plasma state described by Dmitri Ryutov [Fusion Science and Technology 56, 1489 (2009)] wherein the normalized thermal pressure is high (beta>1) yet the plasma is magnetized (wt>1) by a tangled field. Such a state might be of interest as a compression target for magnetized target fusion or as a laboratory setting with connections to astrophysical molecular clouds.
Byvank and Endrizzi operated BRB in order to inject and collide two CT plasmas, diagnosing their speed, magnetic structure, and kinetic properties with moveable arrays of internal probes. Each CT plasma was formed and injected with one of two CT injectors at WiPPL, one on loan from TAE Technologies, Inc., the other designed by Endrizzi based on the TAE design and built by WiPPL. The video below shows an example of the collision process, with the two CT plasmas colliding together in the core region of BRB where the diagnostic probe arrays are visible. The results of these initial experiments are promising, and further collaborations are being planned.
UW-Madison team receives NSF grant for programmable power supply construction
A UW-Madison Physics Department research team led by Dr. Brett Chapman was awarded a two-year Major Research Instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for construction of programmable power supply (PPS) modules for experimental use on the Big Red Ball (BRB) and the Madison Symmetric Torus (MST) at WiPPL. The PPS modules are digitally programmable and feedback controlled, based on a prototype, pictured above, already in use on MST to drive toroidal plasma current, which generates a poloidal magnetic field confining the high-temperature plasma. The modules, six of which are shown in the picture, can be used individually, or they can be used in groups as large as desired, providing a wide range of maximum current. The modules provide for substantially more flexible and sophisticated plasma experiments at WiPPL. Some experiments will be accomplished much more readily and quickly with the modules, but the modules will also enable other experiments that would otherwise range from difficult to impossible. This capability is illustrated with the MST plasma current signal plotted below, with 100,000 amperes of MST plasma current being modulated with an embedded “UW” waveform. On BRB, the modules will enable an easily scannable toroidal guide field for ongoing magnetic reconnection studies, as well as future experiments on the formation of spherical tokamaks for adiabatic compression and ion heating studies, for example. On MST, they will help enhance the capabilities of the power supplies now in use to provide both poloidal and toroidal magnetic fields, enabling increased operational performance for physics studies of reversed-field pinch and tokamak plasmas. This new power supply capability funded by the NSF will substantially enhance and broaden the plasma science research that can be carried out at WiPPL.