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Grad student funded to discover the plasma science frontier on US’s largest tokamak fusion reactor

Samuel Nogami, a graduate student in Mark Koepke’s plasma physics research group, will receive two years of Department of Energy funding starting August 15th to conduct Frontier Science Experiments in an inaugural FSE initiative launched in 2017 on the DIII-D National Fusion Facility in San Diego, California. The facility and its fusion-energy science mission comprise a cornerstone element in the national fusion program strategy, yet the new initiative explores the potential to use the facility for discovery beyond the usual mission. The experiments, conducted in collaboration with the DIII-D team, will be carried out during five days in FY2017, about 4 percent of all the facility's operational shot days in one calendar year. Additional experimental days are earmarked for FSE experiments in FY2018.

General Atomics has pioneered magnetic fusion research since the 1960s and has been a leader in the donut-shaped (toroidal) magnetic confinement device called a tokamak. The mission of the DIII-D Research Program is to establish the scientific basis for the optimization of the tokamak approach to fusion energy production, harnessing the natural power of the Sun to create a clean and virtually unlimited energy source on Earth.

The FSE collaboration consists of M. Koepke (WVU), R. Buttery (General Atomics), T. Carter (UCLA), J. Egedal (U.Wisc.), C. Forest (U.Wisc.), W. Fox (Princeton Plasma Physics Lab), G. Howes (U.Iowa), P. Piovesan (CNR-France), J. Sarff (U.Wisc.), F. Skiff (U.Iowa), D. Spong (Oak Ridge National Lab), and a DIII-D scientist for each of the six selected projects. Nogami will be responsible for analyzing and interpreting the data from three FSE projects. Even before starting the FSE experiments, Nogami has one year of experience performing DIII-D computational modeling, two years of Texas Helimak experiments that are closely aligned with one of his FSE projects, and three years of UCLA Large Plasma Device experiments that are closely aligned with another of his FSE projects.


"[The graduate student] should be well prepared and qualified to complete the proposed research program", a proposal reviewer noted, who also wrote, "The research aims to advance fundamental understanding in two key plasma science areas -- particle acceleration and energetic particles in plasmas, and turbulence and transport in plasmas. The three sub-projects proposed to be the topics of this graduate student effort ... will investigate the fundamental, self-consistent, transport-inducing interaction between large-scale coherent [plasma] structures and small-scale [electromagnetic plasma-wave] turbulence, an important process in astrophysical and fusion plasmas. It should help deepen scientific understanding behind basic plasma processes that are outside of the typical fusion-energy-science research line and provide cross fertilization with fusion research in terms of foundational understanding."    


The three subprojects are

(1) Impact of Magnetic Perturbation on Turbulence – Zonal Flow Interaction and Saturation,

(2) Nonlinear Processes during Toroidal Alfvén Mode-Mode Interaction, and

(3) Self-Consistent Chaos in Magnetic Field Dynamics.


For more information visit the General Atomics Fusion Energy Research website or the U.S. Department of Energy website.


Mark Koepke, Professor

Department of Physics and Astronomy

West Virginia University

Morgantown, WV 26506-6315

Office 304-293-4912

mark.koepke@mail.wvu.edu