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The Australian National University
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The EIF Upgrade

In its 2009-10 Budget the Australian Government announced a $1.1 billion Super Science Initiative to build on the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) investments in research infrastructure. As part of this initiative, $7 million has been allocated to the upgrade of Australia’s plasma fusion research capabilities, the need for which was identified in the 2008 Strategic Roadmap for Australian Research Infrastructure.

The Australian Plasma Fusion Research Facility (APFRF, formerly the National Plasma Fusion Research Facility) is a uniquely versatile plasma research facility, located in the Research School of Physics and Engineering within the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. It is capable of accessing a wide range of plasma configurations or shapes, and utilising the associated state-of-the-art power and measurement systems that allow fundamental studies of plasma, the fourth state of matter.

The facility is operated by the staff from the Plasma Research Laboratory, and serves both domestic and international collaborators including researchers from China, Japan, Korea, Germany, and the United States.

A core component of the facility is the H-1 Heliac plasma confinement device (Heliac). The Heliac allows investigation of basic plasma physics and exploration of ideas for improved magnetic design of the fusion power stations that will follow the ITER international fusion experiment in France.

While the Heliac’s shape prevents its use in a reactor, its high degree of flexibility allows testing basic plasma theory over a wide range of conditions, making it ideal for a university or research environment.

Similarly, the facility provides a convenient, flexible and well diagnosed test-bed for development of plasma measurement systems for both stellarators and tokomaks, an area where Australia is at the international forefront.

The Heliac itself was originally funded through the ANU block grant and Major Equipment grants, and was established as a National Facility in the first round of the Major National Research Facility (MNRF) program in 1997. MNRF funding was used to provide two precision 14000 Amp magnet power supplies, high power pulsed electron and RF heating sources, and a set of plasma diagnostic systems to improve the versatility of this national facility.

More recently a variation of the MNRF funding agreement allowed the automation of the operating system to improve operational efficiency, and to allow greater control of plasma parameters.

Objectives of the Upgrade

The Objectives of the upgrade are to:

  • upgrade the technical capabilities of the APFRF by replacing or upgrading various components of the Heliac system such as the plasma generation and heating system and associated antennas, the vacuum system, the plasma measurement systems, precision current regulator, and fast cameras
  • boost Australian capability in fusion science and engineering by making the facility more accessible to local and international researchers
  • offer open access to data arising from the facility upgrades to relevant research communities
  • offer merit-based access to the research infrastructure upgraded and built through the Project


In the 2008 Strategic Roadmap for Australian Research Infrastructure, fusion was included under the Sustainable Energy Future capability among long timescale candidates as a potential large-scale, non-polluting energy source. The Roadmap identified that plasma fusion required concerted international collaboration, investment in local capabilities including experimental facilities, and co-operation to bring to commercial reality. The upgrade of the APFRF is part of this investment.

In addition to increased technical capabilities, the upgrade will develop capabilities and expertise by fostering student, post-graduate and post-Doctoral training. It will also facilitate the development of measurement systems suitable for application to current and next generation fusion power experiments such as the ITER experimental fusion reactor.

Scope of the Upgrade

The APFRF upgrade will include a number or technical upgrades and additions to the existing facility. These include:

  • Upgrading the original (pre-MNRF) medium power RF heating system.
    • The system used to generate plasma in the H-1 has proven to be the most often-used method of plasma formation and heating, because of its flexibility of modulation and ability to control the phase elements in the antenna.
    • That system is almost 50 years old, is becoming increasingly unreliable, and is the main cause of unscheduled facility down time.
    • The upgrade will double the available power, improve reliability and facility uptime, and reduce electric power costs.
    • Furthermore, the ability to vary frequency over a wide range will allow properly controlled magnetic field scans while using resonant heating.
  • Purchase and installation of new RF antennas.
    • This will allow more frequent pulses, control of antenna position and enable RF plasma to be used as a cleaning method to remove oxygen and carbon impurities from the chamber walls and internal structures.
  • Installation of a precision current regulator.
    • This will allow better and more controlled access to island divertor plasma configurations.
  • Installation of a medium power continuous or long pulse gyrotron, contingent upon availability of funds after the procurement of the RF upgrade above.
    • This gyrotron will be a more reliable, routine source of electron heating than the present high power pulsed gyrotron, applicable to both H-1 and the satellite test chamber.
  • Upgrade of the vacuum system.
    • This upgrade will allow better impurity control, which is necessary for achieving higher ionisation states, and for dealing with material ablated or sputtered from wall material tests.
  • Upgrade of the data system.
    • The upgrade will make data more readily available, especially to users not intimately familiar with details of H-1 operation.
    • The resulting diagnostic (measurement system) automation will greatly improve the diagnostic system coverage, so that key diagnostics are available on all shots.
  • Installation of fast cameras and photomultiplier arrays.
    • This installation will provide important infrastructure for development of plasma edge and divertor diagnostics, both of which require detailed measurements because of their complexity.
  • The use of the various H-1 power, heating and diagnostic systems on a small satellite device.
    • This small device will allow tests of plasma edge and wall diagnostics under more realistic conditions, for example, under higher power and plasma density.

Updated:  30 June 2010/Responsible Officer:  H-1 Facility Manager /Page Contact:  H-1 Website Administrator