Research at the facility
The Australian Plasma Fusion Research Facility (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 extensive scope of these fundamental and technological challenges also 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.
The Plasma Configurations Group is applying an innovative data mining technique to the investigation of a range of Alfvén-range instabilities in the H-1 plasma. The wide range of magnetic configurations and the precise computer control of H-1 make it uniquely suitable for fundamental studies of these instabilities, the understanding of which is crucial to the success of future large experiments, such as ITER. The cross-campus collaboration with Dr M. Hegland of the Mathematical Sciences Institute, ANU has been extended internationally to include the Heliotron-J experiment in Japan, and a theoretical and computational collaboration with Dr C. Nührenberg of the Max Planck Institute, Greifswald.
Mapping magnetic configurations
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. 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.
World class optical plasma diagnostics are provided and constantly enhanced by the Advanced Imaging and Inverse Methods 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 recently 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.
Fundamental turbulence studies
The Physics of Fluids Group led by Professor 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. A recent research highlight is 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.
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.
Professor Howard’s 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.
Australian fusion research
Looking to the future, scientists, engineers and others around Australia have 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 an international workshop held in Sydney in 2006, 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 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.