Publication laboratory for plasma physics, most read paper in "Physics of Plasmas"

  • March 18, 2021

The laboratory for plasma physics of the Royal Military Academy (LPP-ERM/KMS) is specialized in heating of fusion devices with Ion Cyclotron Resonance Heating (ICRH). This technique consists in sending powerful electromagnetic waves in the frequency range 10-60 MHz to heat the plasma (a medium consisting of ions and electrons) to temperatues of about 100 million degrees, necessary to start fusion reactions similar to those in the sun. Recently the laboratory has extended the existing set of ICRH heating scenarios and proposed the novel so-called three-ion ICRH scenario. The high efficiency of the new technique for plasma heating was first experimentally demonstrated on the US tokamak Alcator-C Mod from the Plasma Science and Fusion Centre of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). These first experimental results were then confirmed and substantially extended on the EU tokamaks Joint European Torus (JET, Culham near Oxford in the United Kingdom), the largest in the world, and ASDEX Upgrade, a tokamak belonging to the Max-Planck Society in Garching, near München in Germany. The successes have led to a publication in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Physics. This resulted in the attribution of the Landau-Spitzer Award, a distinguished prize of the American Physical Society in 2018, shared between two colleagues from the LPP-ERM/KMS, Yevgen Kazakov and Jef Ongena, and two MIT colleagues, John Wright and Steve Wukitch.

In recent months, the LPP-ERM/KMS team, in collaboration with scientists from more than twenty laboratories around the world, has summarized the experimental progress and various applications of the three-ion ICRH scenarios in a review paper for the American scientific journal "Physics of Plasmas". Because of the very positive judgments during the review process, the Editors of the journal choose to promote the paper as a "Featured Paper". Moreover, only two weeks after its official publication, the paper received more than 1000 views and it is currently one of the most read papers of this prestigious journal.

The paper explains in didactic terms the physics underlying this new heating scenario. It is essentially a direct consequence of the application of Maxwell's equations in an anisotropic plasma. It has many promising applications and brings an entire group of "remarkable" observations from the past together under one heading. They all can be directly explained with the same unique physical principle.

The popularity of the paper in the fusion science community shows the large international interest in the work of the LPP-ERM/KMS team, led by director Prof. Michael Van Schoor, and is a worldwide recognition of the expertise of the research done at the Royal Military Academy.

Since its publication, MIT Boston also devoted a page to the article, mentioning the leading contribution of KMS. 

The paper can be downloaded, free of charge, using the following link.

Illustration caption

The three-ion ICRH scenario at work in a plasma consisting of a mixture of Deuterium (D) and Helium-3 (3He) in JET. In this scenario deuterium ions injected with energies ~ 100keV from the neutral beam injectors are further accelerated to ~2 MeV with the three-ion ICRH scenario. A large number of neutrons (n) are produced in the centre of the plasma from fusion reactions between those very energetic D-ions and thermal D-ions (D+D 3He+n). The number of neutrons produced per unit of time is visualized by the coloured region in the figure (increasing from blue to red).