I completed an integrated Masters degree at Durham University and, after a brief foray into software engineering, a one-year MSc in Fusion Energy at the University of York. My PhD is entitled “Exploring the Physics of the Kinetic Ballooning Mode” and is supervised by Dr. David Dickinson.
The premise of my research is as follows: Magnetically Confined Fusion (MCF) – the use of strongly magnetised plasmas to achieve thermonuclear fusion with a net energy gain – has the potential to provide a relatively clean and virtually unlimited supply of electricity, and could revolutionise the energy industry. The fusion reaction rate is determined by the plasma density and temperature profiles; in the frontrunning class of MCF machines, the tokamak, these profiles are thought to be limited by spatially small-scale plasma instabilities, which give rise to turbulence and thus transport of heat and particles (there is also evidence that turbulent transport is becoming the dominant transport mechanism in advanced stellarators). An improved understanding of these instabilities is therefore highly desirable, although made challenging by the complex magnetic geometry and multiscale nature of the plasma. In this computational/theoretical PhD, I will be using a gyrokinetic framework to explore the physics of plasma instabilities & turbulence; the particular focus will be using electromagnetic gyrokinetic models to study a particular instability known as the Kinetic Ballooning Mode (KBM), which is likely to be performance-relevant for the next generation of MCF devices. It is hoped that, by better understanding the phenomena of magnetised plasmas, we become closer to making fusion energy a reality.