The kinetics of heat transport in novel fusion schemes – plasma strand project

Supervisor/s: Chris Ridgers & Andrew Higginbotham (University of York).

Fusion offers an attractive solution to low carbon energy production but is difficult to control in the laboratory, primarily because it necessarily involves confining an extremely hot plasma. Recent results from the National Ignition Facility (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California, USA) have shown that net energy gain is possible using the method of inertial confinement fusion (ICF). Here, the fusion fuel is compressed by a ‘driver’ to such high density that its own inertia confines the fuel long enough for energy breakeven by fusion reactions. In this PhD project you will explore a major outstanding problem for ICF, energy transport at the interface of materials, critical to the interface between the driver and the fusion fuel. Typically this problem is modelled using fluid dynamics based on local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE) but the mean free path of the particles becomes very long causing LTE to break down. How exactly to treat non-LTE transport is not known and extremely interesting because material structure under such extreme pressure can be highly exotic, resembling the interior of giant planets.

This project will give you the opportunity to develop highly valuable skills. You will be involved in work at the cutting edge of fusion research enabling you to learn advanced computational techniques, how to utilise large supercomputing resources and analyse the large quantities of data produced as well as giving you experience using research-level experimental equipment.

This research project is funded through an academic-industry five-year EPSRC Prosperity Partnership, Amplifi. We work with First Light Fusion, the world’s leading inertial fusion company, Machine Discovery, the University of Oxford and Imperial College London to address some of the most pressing challenges facing inertial fusion. Working closely with both industrial and academic colleagues will give you unique experience solving real-world problems in a high-tech business environment, while developing your expertise in a range of exciting fundamental physics topics.

The project will be based at York but close collaboration with First Light Fusion (based outside Oxford) and Imperial College London is encouraged.

This project is offered by University of York. For further information please contact: Christopher Ridgers (

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

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