NPRE Illinois Oct 24, 2017

Assistant Prof. Davide Curreli’s work to model Plasma Surface Interactions in fusion reactors has gained a U.S. Department of Energy Award through the Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) partnership in Fusion Energy Sciences.

Totaling $875,000 for Curreli’s research program over the next five years, the work focuses on predicting the performance and the impact of Plasma-Facing Components in magnetic fusion reactors. The National Academy of Engineering has ranked understanding Plasma-Surface Interaction as one of the top problems of the 21st Century, representing one of the last steps to actual fusion reactors.

Over the past few years, Curreli, of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at Illinois, has been collaborating with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications to develop the Hybrid Particle In-cell (hPIC) computer code that simulates strongly magnetized plasmas close to the surface of a fusion reactor. The code has been tested on Blue Waters, the powerful supercomputer on the Urbana campus. Curreli has worked with his student, Rinat Khaziev, on this project.

Jon Drobny, another of Curreli’s students, has been connecting hPIC with F-TRIDYN, a code for the prediction of sputtering and implantation during ion irradiation on solid materials.

“Both sputtering and implantation processes play a fundamental role in driving the material response during plasma exposure,” Curreli said. “Sputtering is responsible for impurity emission from a reactor wall’s surface when bombarded by plasma ions. Implantation is responsible for composition modifications, and surface morphology evolution. The particle impurities coming from the wall can terminate the plasma, causing big problems for sustaining a fusion reactor.”

The project’s objectives are twofold:

  • Develop high-performance simulation tools capable of predicting the lifetime of operating plasma facing component.
  • Impact the evolving surface morphology and composition of tungsten-based components on plasma contamination, including the dynamic recycling of fuel species and tritium retention.

“By using our two codes hPIC and F-TRIDYN together we will provide a more complete description of the complex interconnections between the plasma and the wall. The hPic code will show how the plasma arrives to the surface, and F-TRIDYN will show what implants and what sputters off the surface,” Curreli said.

In addition to Illinois researchers, the project will include partnership with scientists from Oakridge, Argonne, Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, Pacific Northwest, and Sandia national laboratories; the University of California-San Diego, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the University of Missouri, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and General Atomics of San Diego.