[PAST EVENT] Physics Seminar

July 29, 2014
Small Hall, Room 122
300 Ukrop Way
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
On the road to carbon-free powerplants driven by nuclear fusion reactors, one of the main obstacles is that a million-degree plasma tends to leak out of the magnetic bottle and scorch the material walls that surround it. One way to mitigate the problem is to develop wall materials that can withstand tremendous heat fluxes. A complementary approach, and the focus of this presentation, is to design the plasma edge such that temperatures are dramatically reduced near the walls. A technique aptly named the "snowflake" will be discussed. One of the goals of the snowflake is to create a neutral gas buffer between the plasma and the material wall – this is known as plasma detachment. Snowflake configurations exhibiting such detachment were repeatably created in the National Spherical Tokamak Experiment at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. The physics of the snowflake configuration, and of detachment in general, is complex, involving strongly anisotropic energy transport, a zoo of atomic physics (e.g., radiation, ionization, recombination, charge exchange), turbulence, and plasma-material interaction. Using a specialized computational tool called UEDGE, the dominant physics of the snowflake configuration are identified, and the possibility of achieving plasma detachment in reactor-scale fusion devices is discussed.

Eric Meier graduated from the University of Utah with a BS in mechanical engineering. From there, he went to work in Redmond, Washington at a small rocket company that is now part of Aerojet. After working the aerospace engineering grind for a few years, he and a colleague decided to follow their dreams and started a company aimed at winning the X Prize (a $10M prize for the first privately funded team that could demonstrate a three-person suborbital spacecraft). The company, Space Transport Corporation, crashed and burned (sometimes literally), and with a lot of new lessons under his belt, Eric entered graduate school at the University of Washington. In 2011, he graduated with a PhD in computational plasma physics from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Since then, he has worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, concentrating on the plasma physics of magnetically confined fusion plasmas.

Everyone is invited to attend.