Six postdocs connect tokamak and stellarator

Eurofusion January 3rd 2018

The Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Germany offers unique possibilities. It features not one, but two of the most advanced fusion experiments available. The Greifswald branch hosts the stellarator Wendelstein 7-X and the Garching institute operates the tokamak ASDEX Upgrade. Why not make use of the best of both worlds? For the first time in history, the institute has offered six postdoc positions with the intention to create synergies between tokamak and stellarator research.

The announcement from the Scientific Board of IPP arrived just in time for tokamak expert Rachael McDermott and her stellarator colleague Oliver Ford. Rachael in Garching and Oliver in Greifswald were about to purchase new cameras to observe the plasma inside both experiments. Those cameras came with software which was not ideal for the needs of the two research teams.

Rachael McDermott. Picture: private

Joining the paths

Developing proper software is not the only thing that researcher Rachael is interested in. “What will be really exciting to see, is how the two different groups of researchers tackle the same problem”, she says. “We usually have the same objectives, but we reach them via different paths. Exchanging and interacting here might create the best solution.”

Two teams, one goal

“We were kicking around ideas regarding how to develop the systems to better meet the goals of our spectroscopy groups”, says Rachael. “If we had the dedicated manpower we would be able to create something specific in a more efficient way and would not have to rely on commercial products that are designed for a more general audience.”

Darren McDonald from EUROfusion’s ITER Physics Department: “EUROfusion’s roadmap brings together tokamaks and stellarators. Sharing of ideas and people between the two areas benefits both. A good example of this is the work being done on the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator in support of ITER. The new postdoc programme is a great way to encourage even more collaboration.”

Rachael and Oliver used the newly created research opportunity to launch a call for a postdoc. He or she would become one of the six ambassadors who, from next spring onwards, will travel and work in both the tokamak and stellarator worlds. The person will receive equal training at ASDEX Upgrade as well as Wendelstein 7-X between 2018 and 2020 and will help to create resources that benefit both groups.

Creating extra space

“By allocating postdoc resources to such collaborative projects, we have created space for special projects to flourish. We were very impressed by the quality of the proposals that we received in response to this call”, says Thomas Sunn Pedersen, Director of the Stellarator Edge and Divertor Physics Division in Greifswald.

It is not only the creational aspect that looks promising: “The new postdoc will be in an optimum position to benefit from ASDEX expertise, and transfer this knowledge to the Wendelstein 7-X team. We in Garching have years of practice in running, for example, visible spectroscopy diagnostics and in interpreting the measurements. This will be very useful when the stellarator systems come online”, says Rachael.