Fuel burn-up in Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) – plasma strand project

Supervisor: John Pasley (University of York) & Dr Alex Robinson (Central Laser Facility, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory).

The inertial confinement approach to fusion involves assembling small quantities of fusion fuel to high densities and temperatures such that thermonuclear ignition and burning can take place. In recent years our group has led the way in developing several innovative techniques in this area [1-3].

The majority of inertial fusion studies to date assume that burn is occurring in pure 50:50 deuterium-tritium fuel. This PhD project will consider situations where this ceases to be the case. Two distinct strands can potentially be explored:

1) Exploring the effects of mix of ablator/pusher materials with the fuel. It is well known that the injection of higher atomic number ions into the fuel exacerbates radiative cooling. However, the extent of cooling and therefore the magnitude of the deleterious effects of such mix are dependent upon both the manner of mixing and also (in simulations) on the details of both the radiative and electron transport models employed. The project will entail exploring relevant mix scenarios using advanced simulation codes and, where possible, comparing the outcomes to published experimental results.

2) Exploring the use of stratified fuels. Advanced ICF target manufacturing techniques may enable the creation of targets with fuel whose elemental composition changes with radial position. This could have several practical benefits. The outermost portions of fuel in an ICF target often do not burn significantly, thereby meaning that tritium in these regions has to be recycled unnecessarily – some of it thereby being wasted. However, the hydrodynamic behaviour of relevant stratified fuel targets has not been extensively studied. This project will explore the design and stability of such targets.

We have access to a range of advanced simulation codes alongside the necessary computational resources to enable you to effectively investigate a wide variety of different phenomena.

During the course of your studies you will be encouraged to participate in workshops, conferences and summer schools. You will be working as part of a group which publishes regularly, and you will be actively supported in developing your scientific writing and publishing skills. If you have any particular interests that you wish to explore, you will be encouraged and supported in doing this. This project description is in no way intended to be prescriptive, and you will be supported in finding your own niche. You will also be supported in continuing your scientific adventures on completion of your studies – the most recent leavers from our group have gone on to postdoctoral research positions at Imperial College London, the University of California, the University of Rochester, and the University of Bordeaux.

[1] “Controlling X-Ray Flux in Hohlraums Using Burn-through Barriers”, W. Trickey, J. Owen, C. Ridgers, and J. Pasley, Physics of Plasmas. 27, 103301, 2020

[2] “Ignition criteria for x-ray fast ignition inertial confinement fusion”, J. G. Lee, A.P.L. Robinson, and J. Pasley, Physics of Plasmas. 27, 042711, 2020

[3] “Producing shock-ignition-like pressures by indirect drive” W. Trickey and J. Pasley, Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, 61, 10, 2019

This project will be based primarily in York. However, it is common for students working with me to choose to spend some time based down in Oxfordshire working with members of the Central Laser Facility’s Plasma Physics Group. I also encourage students working with me to take opportunities to go abroad for conferences, workshops, summer schools and also for longer stays with collaborators. Such activities are however entirely optional.

This project is offered by University of York. For further information please contact: Dr John Pasley (john.pasley@york.ac.uk).

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