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EPISODE: The Engineering Physics Department Newsletter


Fall / Winter 2003-2004
Featured articles

Following particle paths
in magnetic fusion experiments

Chain reaction: DOE grant aids infrastructure, educational upgrades
for reactor

Coating could take
burnables out of
nuclear fuel

Opposites attract:
Stable and unstable materials couple for
high performance

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New faculty: Todd Allen

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Following particle paths in magnetic fusion experiments

Picture of Assistant Professor Dennis Whyte

Dennis Whyte
(37K JPG)

T he interior wall of a large magnetic-fusion experiment can take a beating: As it circulates, plasma—an ionized gas that fuels fusion energy production—attacks the reactor wall.

If too many wall particles slough off and join the plasma, they poison the fusion reaction, says Assistant Professor Dennis Whyte (pictured). Conversely, a vigorous plasma could eat through the interior reactor wall. And most critically, some of the radioactive tritium generated through fusion fuel can embed in the reactor walls, creating safety issues. “We need to answer those questions now before we start building larger and larger devices where these problems become more and more acute,” he says.

Using the tokamak at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, San Diego, Whyte and his collaborators will insert carbon-13-doped methane in one reactor location, then discharge the plasma. Following that first experimental phase, he will use his ion-beam to non-destructively examine sections of the reactor wall and map where the carbon-13 and other particles deposited in the wall. With that data, he hopes to develop models to explain how turbulent transport carries these particles around.

Whyte is collaborating with researchers from General Atomics, the University of Toronto, the University of California-San Diego and Sandia National Laboratories.

The project is funded with a three-year, $450,000 grant from the Department of Energy and a nine-month, $35,000 grant from General Atomics.


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Date last modified: Monday, 15-November-2003 15:43:00 CDT
Date created: 15-November-2003