Annual report 2007
Progress this year featured completion of the fast scanning interferometer upgrade and the electromagnetic turbulence simulator. Many other smaller but important improvements were made to the Facility. These included a reorganisation of the control system to be more accessible to non-expert operators, establishment of an extensive technical documentation database, and improved organisation of the extensive cabling system. H-1NF provides an important resource to a wide range of researchers, national and international, world-class training to graduate students, and has generated a broad range of spin-offs for manufacturing, defence and communications industries. The broad scope of these challenges equips the group to engage in a diverse range of related and complementary pursuits, which are summarised below in conjunction with the core plasma research from which they are derived.
World class optical plasma diagnostics are provided and constantly enhanced by the Advanced Imaging and Inverse Methods (AIIM) Group led by Professor John Howard, which undertakes research into optical and millimetre-wave techniques for plasma diagnostics, and their associated inverse methods, with applications in industry and medicine. The group won a large International Science Linkages grant to undertake research on prototype fusion devices in the US, Europe and Korea by exploiting new optical technologies developed by Professor Howard. A collaboration with BlueScope Steel on imaging of high temperature molten iron flows has produced new results with potential for real time discrimination of slag from steel. In an ARC funded collaboration with researchers at Chalmers University in Sweden, the AIIM group is developing inverse techniques for microwave imaging of human tissue, building on experience and methods developed for microwave plasma interferometry.
The Physics of Fluids Group led by Dr Michael Shats has completed the electromagnetic turbulence facility, which mimics the two dimensional turbulence seen in plasma. The group focuses on studies of waves, turbulence and nonlinear phenomena in fluids. The research highlight of 2007 was the discovery of turbulence suppression by large-scale two-dimensional mean flows, through shear decorrelation of turbulent eddies and sweeping of vortices. These results clarify ways for improving plasma confinement by magnetic fields and are also important for the physics of weather phenomena. Other significant additions to the facilities include the development of a new high-resolution particle image velocimetry technique implemented using a two colour laser and a high resolution camera, and a new apparatus for studying surface wave turbulence.
A new, comprehensive and experimentally validated model of the detailed magnetic field structure of H-1 has been developed by the Plasma Configurations Group, led by Associate Professor Boyd Blackwell. A data mining technique, developed at the Facility to unravel the mode structure of plasma instabilities, has recently been successfully applied to stellarator experiments in Japan, Spain and Germany. A new technique to detect fast-changing instabilities is being developed in collaboration with the Mathematical Sciences Institute. An application of the group’s precision magnetic surface mapping technique to magnetic islands, has revealed some interesting effects on plasma confinement and internal electric fields.
The BushLAN project, a spin-off of the radiofrequency activities of the facility is an excellent example of research-led teaching developed by Dr Gerard Borg. It is driven by the goal of using a wireless system to overcome the Internet connectivity problem in remote areas. This year saw the development of several important technologies by College of Engineering and Computer Science students, including digital signal processing software and an Intermediate Frequency amplifier.
Looking to the future, facility staff, some Board members, and a number of researchers around Australia joined forces under the banner of the Australian ITER Forum, led by Dr Matthew Hole, to develop community vision for the future of fusion science and engineering in Australia. After wide consultation, and building on the International Workshop held in Sydney in 2006 with financial support from the Federal Government’s International Science Linkages Program, a strategy document was developed: ‘Australian Fusion Science and Engineering: Through ITER and into the future’. The plan, budgeted at $63M over 10 years, emphasises capability-building by the provision of early and mid-career fellowships, builds on existing infrastructure and includes, as a focal point, a plasma remote measurement system, or ‘diagnostic’, to be installed on the ITER international fusion experiment. Hopefully, funds can be found to further this exciting, and potentially very rewarding research.