The Australian Plasma Fusion Research Facility (H-1NF) is the Australian focus of basic experimental research on magnetically confined plasma, important in developing fusion energy, a clean, virtually inexhaustible energy source that powers the sun and stars.The mission of the facility is to:
- perform research into the basic properties of magnetically-confined, high-temperature plasma as part of an international program, whose ultimate aim is ecologically sustainable power generation by the controlled fusion of hydrogen isotopes
- ensure that Australia is intellectually and technologically equipped to benefit from a future fusion power industry, with emphasis on the export of high-technology components needed by fusion power stations
- maintain Australia’s internationally recognised position of excellence in basic plasma physics and applications such as plasma diagnostics and plasma processing of semiconductors.
- a detailed understanding of the behaviour of hot plasma which is magnetically confined in the helical axis stellarator configuration – this forms part of an international program under the International Energy Agency (IEA) Implementation Agreement on Stellarators, to which Australia is a party
- the development of advanced plasma measurement systems (‘diagnostics’), integrating real-time processing and multi-dimensional visualisation of data
- fundamental studies of turbulence and transport of particles and energy in confined plasmas
- significant contributions to the global fusion research effort and an increased Australian presence in the field of plasma fusion power into the 21st century
- improvements in knowledge of basic plasma physics for applications such as plasma processing of semiconductors
- an important performance indicator was identified as ‘technological spin-off activities’ in areas including instrumentation and techniques.
The heart of the H-1NF is the H-1 Heliac, a large toroidal helical-axis stellarator device which was designed for fundamental research in the physics of plasma confinement. The Heliac magnetic field is produced by a three-dimensional magnetic coil system. This magnetic field is precisely controlled by a precision computer-controlled 14 megawatt dual power supply, which by control of currents, allows a wide range of plasma shapes to be produced.
The plasma is produced by high-power radio- and micro-waves, and its properties are measured by electric and magnetic probes, optical and microwave interferometry and scattering instruments.
GovernanceThe management structure involves three major organisations:
- The Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST)
- The Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE)
- The Australian National University (ANU)
At annual meetings, scientific and technical operational plans and associated budgets are developed, including facility upgrades, collaborations, and research training plans.
At weekly meetings, the reduced Management Committee executes the operational plan and schedules experiments.