Advancing code could greatly improve nuclear fusion reactor design

The XGC-S code is opening ‘a big window’ for nuclear fusion research by helping train simulators.

Researchers from the United States Department of Energy (DoE) and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have shown that advanced computer code could help design much more efficient and better nuclear fusion reactors.

Nuclear fusion is an attempt to harness the power of the sun in a reactor, potentially providing almost unlimited, cheap and clean energy. It is often described as the “holy grail” of physics.

Now writing in Physics of Plasmas, the PPPL and DoE researchers said this code, dubbed XGC-S, will greatly benefit the design of starbursts, one of the key components of a fusion reactor.

This spinning magnetic coil is essential for trapping hot, charged plasma gas, but it must be precisely designed to prevent heat from escaping from the plasma core where it fuels the fusion reactions.

“The main result of our research is that we can use the code to simulate the behavior of early or linear and turbulent plasma in the igniters,” said Michael Cole, lead author of the article.

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“This means that we can begin to determine which form of estellarador contains better heat and more efficiently maintains the conditions for fusion.”

‘A really important development’

In tests, the researchers simulated the behavior of plasma inside donut-shaped fusion machines, but with pinches and deformations that make the device more efficient, a type of shape known as quasi-axis asymmetric.

Using XGC-S, the simulations showed that a type of disturbance limited to a small area can become complex and expand to fill a larger space within the plasma. This makes the new code much more accurate than previously possible.

David Gates, head of PPPL’s ​​Advanced Projects Department, said: “I think this is the beginning of a really important development in the study of turbulence in stellarators. It opens a big window to get new results. “

Now they plan to modify XGC-S even further to create an even clearer picture of how turbulence affects heat leakage in a reactor.

Cole added: “Once you have precise code and a powerful computer, changing the design of the stellarator you are simulating is easy.”