Message from the Director

The Swiss Plasma Center aims at making ITER a success,  at developing the science and technology basis of DEMO, at preparing the next generations of fusion scientists and engineers, and at exploiting plasma and fusion spinoffs for industry and society. With ITER, we will demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion on earth, while DEMO will prove that fusion energy can be deployed commercially.

We contribute to the ITER project via contracts with the ITER International Organization and Fusion for Energy, by strengthening the participation of Swiss industry to the procurement of important components, and by advancing the ITER physics basis and optimizing its chances of success via experimentation on our facilities, in particular the TCV tokamak. In parallel with the ITER construction and the associated integration process, we also follow directly the plans for the scientific exploitation of ITER, our first burning plasma device.

Our Center includes about 110 staff and 40 graduate students, in six research lines: Theory of Plasmas, Basic Plasma Physics, TCV Tokamak Physics, International collaborations, Superconductivity for Fusion and Plasma Applications.

The TCV tokamak is the largest experimental facility on the EPFL campus and is operated both in the frame of the EUROfusion Consortium, for which a significant input of human and financial resources is granted by Europe, and for our own domestic program, of which an important fraction is devoted to PhD thesis projects. Many collaborators come to EPFL to perform experiments on TCV from all over Europe and overseas.

The TCV program ranges from conventional to advanced tokamak scenarios and alternative divertor configurations, exploiting the device’s unique flexibility, in terms of plasma shapes and configurations, heating, control and diagnostic systems. In recent years, infrastructure upgrades have further enhanced the capabilities of the TCV tokamak to investigate crucial issues for ITER, DEMO and the fusion reactor. New MW level heating systems, in particular a Neutral Beam Injectors and dual frequency gyrotrons, operating at the second or third electron cyclotron harmonics, expand the parameter range, encompassing plasma scenarios that are akin to those foreseen for ITER, and stationary discharges sustained by the current driven by electron cyclotron waves.

In addition, an in-vessel structure, with mechanical baffles, several gas injection valves and an updated set of diagnostic systems are installed to create and characterise a divertor volume of variable closure with a high degree of control of the plasma and neutral gas conditions. This enables us to investigate important aspects of the plasma exhaust issue in conventional and innovative magnetic configurations.

Tests of ITER conductors are continuing in the applied superconductivity group, in parallel with innovation on specific aspects of high temperature superconductors, for DEMO and for particle accelerators, in the context of EUROfusion and of the Swiss collaboration on advanced particle accelerators, CHART.

A significant part of our efforts are devoted to basic studies and theoretical models, which, starting from first principles, and including more and more relevant physics and realistic geometries, are approaching the crucial issue of the coupling between the thermonuclear core with the plasma periphery, from where the plasma particles and power are exhausted and where complex interaction with the surrounding material surfaces take place. Our theory and numerical simulation group is strongly involved in the EUROfusion initiatives, aimed at significantly increasing the joint efforts to simulate and predict ITER and DEMO grade plasmas.

Advanced analysis of plasma turbulence and related suprathermal ion transport continue in TORPEX, while studies for the optimization of wave-drive plasma sources for DEMO neutral beam injectors, as well as for the plasma wake accelerator concept for CERN are conducted in the linear plasma device RAID.

The Swiss Plasma Center also exploits fusion and plasma spin-offs for societal applications, notably from our recently developed bio-plasma laboratory that operates in the area of plasma-aided sterilization, in collaboration with local companies and the EPFL and UNIL Life Sciences Faculty.

This large set of activities and their success are made possible by the long term vision of our wide platform of financial support bodies, including the ETH Board, the SERI, the EPFL Faculty of Basic Sciences and Institute of Physics, the Swiss National Science Foundation, InnoSuisse and CTI, ITER, Fusion for Energy and Eurofusion, to which I am deeply thankful.  Last but not least, we could not have achieved so many results without the professionalism and formidable efforts of our teams, to which I wish to express my deep and continuous gratitude.

Prof. Ambrogio Fasoli