Fusion reactions combine light ions to produce heavier nuclei, along with energy associated with mass conversion. This energy can be converted to electricy, or the energetic particles can be used for non-electric applications. Faculty and staff in this area are exploring a variety of technologies for the production of fusion energy.
Magnetic fusion experiments
In magnetic fusion, an ionized gas, or plasma, is confined within a vacuum chamber by magnetic fields.The UW has three major magnetic fusion experiments, including Pegasus, a spherical torus, HSX, a stellarator, and MST, a reversed-field pinch.
Plasma theory and computation
In addition to these magnetic fusion experiments, we have a robust theory and computation effort spearheaded by Professors Sovinec and Hegna , who use analytic and computational techniques to study the dynamics of high temperature plasmas.
In inertial fusion, lasers or ion beams are used to compress a small pellet filled with fusion fuels (usually deuterium and tritium). Professor Moses has extensive experience with radiation hydrodynamics simulations, permitting the study of both target implosions and the transport of the resulting energy to the walls of the surrounding chamber. Professor Bonazza uses a shock tube to study instabilities related to target implosions.
Fusion technology addresses the engineering issues that must be addressed to build a reactor capable of producing electricity from fusion. Professors Kulcinski, Moses, Blanchard, Henderson, El-Guebaly, Santarius, Sawan, and Wilson have active research programs to address such issues as heat removal, radiation damage to materials, tritium production, magnet design, neutron and gamma transport and component lifetime in such machines.
Inertial electrostatic fusion
Inertial electrostatic confinement fusion employs potential differences across concentric, spherical grids to accelerate ions and produce fusion. Professors Kulcinski and Santarius head a team addressing a variety of technologies and applications suitable to this approach.