Prof. Paolo Ricci and Dr. Alessandro Pau

CIS – “Get to know your neighbors” Seminar Series

Can artificial intelligence and machine learning help us to light up an earthbound star?”
Prof. Paolo Ricci, Associate Professor, Swiss Plasma Center
and Dr. Alessandro Pau, Research Scientist
, Swiss Plasma Center

Monday, Sept. 26, 2022 | 3:15 – 4:15pm | Hybrid

or on-site INF 328


Fusion, the energy source of the stars, is one of the few options for developing sustainable power supply. Fusion is based on essentially inexhaustible sources, is inherently safe and releases no process greenhouse gases. The goal of the ITER tokamak, the largest worldwide scientific experiment under construction, is to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy on Earth. This will be achieved by confining a plasma at a temperature that is ten times higher than that in the core of the Sun using strong magnetic fields. Artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques offer several tools to automatize, scale-​up and speed-​up computational demanding, complex data processing tasks that are necessary for the optimal operation of ITER and the design of future fusion reactors. This talk will address ongoing investigations into these topics at the Swiss Plasma Center of EPFL and provide perspectives for future collaborations.

Paolo Ricci earned his Master’s degree in nuclear engineering at the Politecnico di Torino, Turin (Italy) in 2000. His doctoral studies were conducted at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and he spent two-and-a-half years as a postdoctoral researcher at Dartmouth College’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.  As a EURATOM fellow, he joined the EPFL Swiss Plasma Center in 2006, was named Tenure Track Assistant Professor in June 2010, and Associate Professor in August 2016. He is at the head of the SPC theory group. Paolo Ricci is the recipient of the 2016 Section de Physique Teaching Prize, of the 2021 Craie d’Or award from the EPFL physics bachelor students, and of the 2021 Polysphère d’Or award from AGEPoly.


Alessandro Pau is a Research Scientist at the EPFL Swiss Plasma Center. He is actively involved in various fusion research activities in the framework of the EUROfusion Research Programme and the International Tokamak Physics Activity (ITPA), where he coordinates high-​level research topics concerning critical issues in tokamak physics and plasma control. His current research focuses on the understanding of the complex nonlinear dynamics that characterises the temporal evolution of magnetically confined plasmas, in particular the catastrophic loss of plasma confinement known as disruption. Disruptions need to be avoided to preserve the integrity of fusion devices and to enable the control of stable and high-​performance plasma regimes. Alessandro Pau is responsible for several collaborations and projects concerning the exploitation of AI and machine learning in fusion research.