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Culham Centre for Fusion Energy has a world-renowned plasma science programme.

The programme’s purpose is to provide the scientific foundation for the commercial development of fusion power.

Designing and building fusion reactors requires a detailed understanding of how the hot, turbulent plasma fuel behaves inside tokamaks. CCFE’s Tokamak Science Department combines theoretical physics studies, advanced computer modelling and experimental data to learn more plasma behaviour and improve the performance of future fusion devices.

A plasma test at the MAST tokamak

Key topics include:

Tokamak plasma animation

Confinement

An efficient fusion reactor must keep losses of energy and particles from the plasma to a minimum. Improving a tokamak’s ability to confine the plasma means future fusion power stations could be smaller and more efficient.

Plasma instabilities

When the plasma current, pressure or density are raised too high the plasma can become unstable. Failure to curb instabilities can mean plasma performance is reduced, or control of the plasma is lost and components can be damaged.

Tokamak plasma animation
Plasma diagram

Plasma exhaust

The tokamak’s exhaust system (known as the ‘divertor’) processes spent fuel and heat ejected from the plasma. The plasma must be cool enough where it meets surfaces in the divertor to ensure that any damage is minimal. Pollution of the plasma by impurities from these surfaces must also be avoided.

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