Development of a Fast Camera Diagnostic Platform for Real-time Control Applications (Plasma Strand Project)

Supervisor: M. Cecconello (Durham University)

External Supervisor: Charles Vincent (UKAEA)

Fast cameras are an important diagnostic instrument for studying plasma physics in fusion devices. Current camera based systems are used to study turbulence, plasma composition, density, exhaust temperature, and shaping all crucial aspects for the control of a fusion reactor. Currently fast camera platforms must either be built from scratch or purchased from a supplier. Building a camera platform from scratch requires a lot of development time but results in specialised system specific for the use case. Buying a camera from a supplier can result in implementing a system quickly but can limit functionality and future upgrade paths due to proprietary software platforms.

Many fast camera systems use a communication protocol called GigE Vision to connect to a controlling PC. This protocol can be licensed for free for research purposes but there currently does not exist an open source implementation. Therefore GigE vision systems are generally only available with accompanying proprietary control and acquisition software. An open-source and user friendly platform using GigE vision would help in quickly creating highly customised instrumentation that can be used for a wide range of available cameras. Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) are integrated circuits capable of being programmed at the bare logic level to specialise them to any task. Because of their generic nature, FPGA based systems are ideal for building custom acquisition and real-time processing systems without going through the electrical engineering aspects of developing an Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC). Firmware written for an FPGA can be applied and integrated into other FPGA platforms and made available as open-source software.

The aim of this project is to develop a flexible fast camera diagnostic platform using the GigE vision protocol. Implementing the GigE vision protocol on FPGA will allow the development of low latency fast camera instrumentation for real-time processing applications. The diagnostic platform could be applied to many areas of fusion research, such as filament tracking, plasma shaping, real-time protection, or plasma edge physics studies. While it is encouraged that the designed proof-of-principle should be suitable to accomodate requirements from different diagnostics, the suggested implementation for this project is a new version of the Hi-Res Optical Measurement of Edge Radius (HOMER) diagnostic. The HOMER diagnostic has potential for increased functionality, compared to its current state, the implementation of which will demonstrate the versatility of the platform. Suggested novel ideas to explore are real-time H-mode event triggering, real-time edge-electron or neutral gas density measurements for plasma edge profile studies, or a 2D camera implementation for real-time plasma boundary imaging and real-time protection. The project will develop skills in a range of computational and experimental areas, as well as provide expertise in FPGA development, plasma control, and a broad knowledge in plasma physics.

The project will be mainly based at UKAEA (CCFE) with regular visits to Durham.

The project is offered by Durham University. For further information please contact M. Cecconello:

The project may be compatible with part time study, please contact the project supervisors if you are interested in exploring this.