Annual report 2008-2009
2008 was an eventful year with the award of 6 new research grants, 6 higher degree research completions, the arrival of two Postdoctoral Fellows, and the renewal of a third. A highly productive vacuum opening allowed improvement of alignment and the installation of two soft X-ray arrays, and a new 100G shaker facility was added to the turbulence facility. A “snapshot” coherence imaging diagnostic developed at ANU produced the world’s first two dimensional image of a tokamak magnetic field, and the extent of the ANU international datamining project was increased to include three large stellarators.
Dr. Shantanu Padhi and Dr. Ahmed Diallo joined the Advanced Imaging and Inverse Methods group, led by Prof. John Howard. Dr. Padhi is working on the microwave imaging project (section VII), and Dr. Diallo on coherence imaging systems applied to plasma devices in Germany, Korea and the Unisted States (section III.3). Dr. Hua Xia was appointed to a Postdoctoral postion with Dr. Shats’ group, funded by an ARC Discovery Grant (section III.2).
A number of improvements were made inside the H-1 vacuum tank during a maintenance period: The beam paths and mirrors of the 2mm interferometer were realigned to provide better quality signals and allow a larger range of vertical motion to be completed without adjustment. The plasma “limiter” which retracts in time for each plasma shot was redesigned and rebuilt to improve ruggedness. A second mirror was installed to steer the microwave heating beam onto a path which more closely approximates a constant magnetic field to improve absorbtion. A mirror was installed and adjusted to provide a tangential view of the plasma, essentially in the toroidal direction, rather than the radial direction.
Some urgently needed laboratory space was provided by the reburbishment of the vacuum and the electronics laboratories, both close to the H-1 Facility.
The Advanced Imaging and Inverse Methods Group, led by Prof. John Howard, undertakes research into optical and millimetre-wave techniques for plasma diagnostics, and their associated inverse methods, with applications in industry and medicine. Funded by an International Science Linkages grant with collaborating partners in the US, Europe and Korea, the highlight this year was the world’s first 2d imaging of magnetic field, in the TEXTOR tokamak. 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.
Dr. Punzmann of the Physics of Fluids Group commissioned an electromagnetic shaker for driving waves ina fluid tank, up to very large amplitude (~100g). The group, led by Dr. M. Shats, focuses on studies of waves, turbulence and nonlinear phenomena in fluids. Other significant additions to the facilities include the development of a new high-resolution particle image velocimetry technique implemented using a two colour laser. A highlight was the first observation of the k-5/3 inverse and k-3 forward enstrophy cascades coexisting simultaneously in a thin-layer fluid experiment using this method.
The Plasma Configurations Group, led by A/Prof. Boyd Blackwell has developed a data mining technique to unravel the mode structure of plasma instabilities. This has recently been successfully applied to stellarator experiments in Japan, Spain and Germany. The group has been invited to apply their technique to the largest stellarator in the world, and to the large Tokamak JT60U in Japan. 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 a distributed cooperative network architecture to overcome the limitations of the cellular network architecture of the original BushLAN, which was similar to that used for mobile phone communication.
The Australian ITER Forum, led by Dr. Matthew Hole, continues to seek funding implement the Forum’s strategy plan for the future of fusion science and engineering in Australia. 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. The International Sciences Linkages grant awarded to Prof. Howard is a significant first step in developing one form of such a diagnostic. The recently announced Future Fellowship scheme is another potential source of research funding that matches the needs of the strategy plan quite well. This, and the recent award of another ISL grant to Dr. Hole and others in a related area is a positive sign for the future.