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Physics Department seminar: Energy from Nuclear Fusion, Seriously: from Fundamental Physics to Astrophysics


Physics Department seminar
AULA A in presence and streaming
3 Marzo 2023– 14:30
Bruno Coppi
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Energy from Nuclear Fusion, Seriously: from Fundamental Physics to Astrophysics

A welcome development for research on the physics of plasmas sustained by nuclear fusion reactions is that now its importance has come to the attention of the general public. On the other hand, the issues of modern fundamental physics that have to be faced (e.g., dealing with phase space, well beyond thermodynamics, self-organization processes and difficult to predict collective modes, which have emerged also in theoretical astrophysics) have been overlooked. Considering these issues, the characteristics of experiments on meaningful fusion burning plasmas are described. In fact, these are meant to provide the needed proof of the scientific feasibility of a (pure fusion) reactor, capable of producing useful energy. The experiments will involve deuterium-tritium plasmas at first as the D-T reaction is the easiest to exploit. Using the gained physics knowledge and the acquired technologies, it is possible to proceed toward plasmas involving the more desirable DDDD reaction chain
(a.k.a. catalyzed DD), without the need of an external source of tritium, and toward deuterium-helium 3 plasmas for which the production of neutrons can be minimized. Where, instead, the production of neutrons is essential is for "hybrid reactors" that combines a fusion generated neutron source with a fission component (e.g. thorium) that has desirable characteristics. Hybrid reactors can be a near-term demonstration of the practical relevance of fusion. The line of compact high-field machines,started with Alcator at MIT and evolved into the Ignitor Program (MIT and Italy), have opened the door to carry out timely experiments, free from large administrative structures, given their relatively low costs and the possibility to operate them in existing facilities. This line has been adopted around the world and
has encouraged a variety of private initiatives in fusion research. At the same time, we re-emphasize that progress in this field proceeds in parallel to progress in fundamental physics and astrophysics.

Students are cordially invited

Contact silvia.leoni@mi.infn.it



03 March 2023
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