Plasma Physics HEC Consortia

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Physics


Plasma physics is the study of the properties of ionised gases. The processes, which need to be investigated, cover kinetic theory of matter far from its equilibrium state, fluid dynamics of magnetised and conductive plasmas and the interaction of these across a huge range of time and length scales, often in complex geometries. Such problems are rarely tractable analytically and thus much of plasma physics relies on High End Computing (HEC) to perform massive simulations.

This HEC Consortium will cover all aspects of computational hot plasma physics. This includes modelling for magnetic confinement fusion (MCF) devices to optimize reactor performance, simulations to optimize compact laser-particle accelerator sources, novel approaches to high-intensity laser-plasma experiments and laser-driven fusion. In all these areas HEC resources are needed for simulations which are essential to either guide experiments, inform research programmes (including providing reliable predictive capability for the performance of future plasma facilities) or to interpret the complex diagnostic sets from coupled multi-scale, non-linear and sometimes relativistic processes.

To help maintain the UK's leading role in fusion reactor design and basic plasma physics the HEC Consortium requires a block allocation of UK National level computing resource, so called Tier-1 HEC. This will ease the access to such facilities and allow the UK to collectively plan computational programmes, which will require many years to complete, in the certainty that the computing resources will be available. Over the four-year duration of this HEC Consortium computer architectures may change and optimising codes for current and future machines is therefore essential. In addition, new physics packages must be developed and implemented to keep the UK at the cutting edge of this research. The Consortium therefore also requires funding for software development to exploit the computing resources and keep codes world-leading.

Applications of the scientific research enabled by the combination of Tier-1 HEC and software support are diverse. Much of the research of the Consortium will be directed at improving reactor designs for fusion power. This is for both MCF and inertial confinement fusion energy (ICF). For the former the HEC will concentrate on understanding how energy is transported from the hot plasma core and managing the extreme heat loads incident on surrounding walls. Recent results from the National Ignition Facility (NIF) demonstrating a burning fusion plasma have energised ICF research internationally. The UK community has used HEC to take a leading role in this, producing novel three dimensional simulations of NIF implosions. This highlighted the deleterious impact of the Rayleigh Taylor instability on the first campaigns on NIF and helped to motivate the new designs which ultimately led to ignition. Going forwards, HEC will be a critical enabler of simulations to guide ICF towards the high gain necessary for net energy generation, including testing novel targets and alternative driver schemes. Laser-driven plasma accelerators and radiation sources have many forms, ranging from laser-irradiated solids to compact capillary discharges; with applications including fast-ignition based laser fusion, ion sources for radiotherapy and compact ultrafast x-ray sources for penetrative probing.


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