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Plasma is the talk of the town | 11/04/2017
The dreaming spires of Oxford were the setting for this year’s edition of the Institute of Physics’ annual Plasma Physics Conference.
Held in a brand new conference centre at Worcester College, the event between 3 and 6 April gathered plasma physicists from various disciplines such as fusion, astrophysics and fundamental plasma theory.
CCFE, based less than ten miles away, was heavily involved as the local organiser and with talks and posters, as well as hosting tours of the JET facility and the new MAST Upgrade tokamak. CCFE scientists Nick Walkden, Jon Hillesheim, Ken McClements and James Harrison all gave talks on their latest research.
CCFE’s Christopher Ham, who was on the organising committee, said: “The conference went really well. It is a great community which aims to put physics to work for society and CCFE is very much involved.”
The Institute of Physics and CCFE give an award at each year’s conference for the best thesis in plasma physics. The 2017 Culham Thesis Prize went to Jason Cole from Imperial College London for his work on laser wakefield accelerators – a plasma-based electron acceleration technique. Jason has shown that x-rays produced by these beams can be used to give high resolution 3D images of bone samples for diagnosing and treating diseases such as osteoporosis.
Seeking to share their passion for plasma with the Oxford public, researchers from the conference took part in ‘Plasma Science Takes 5’ – a series of accessible five-minute talks on plasma science from solar flares, fusion to medical plasmas. The event attracted around 70 people and there were plenty of questions afterwards.
With only months to go before CCFE’s spherical tokamak MAST Upgrade starts up, there was much interest at the conference in the new machine’s potential. Immediately after the event, the MAST Upgrade Research Forum was held at the same venue, allowing fusion scientists to develop plans for the first series of experiments.
More than 70 researchers attended the meeting, from CCFE, UK universities and overseas. The Forum comprised talks from the MAST Upgrade Topic Leaders presenting their prioritisation of the 79 experiment proposals they have received. In addition, Jon Menard, Program Director of US spherical tokamak NSTX-U, presented an invited talk, “Progress and plans for research on NSTX Upgrade” and Hendrik Meyer, EUROfusion's MST1 Task Force Leader, gave an invited talk on MAST Upgrade’s role in the European Medium Sized Tokamaks programme.
MAST Upgrade Programme Leader Andrew Kirk commented: “There was a good deal of interaction between the presenters and the audience and there was a clear feeling that the start of MAST Upgrade operations is now very close.”
Photo: Jason Cole receives the 2017 Culham Thesis Prize from CCFE's Christopher Ham