Controlled Nuclear Fusion
Fusion is the process powering the stars, such as our sun. At their core, atomic nuclei collide and fuse together into heavier elements, releasing tremendous amounts of energy. On Earth, fusion scientists try to replicate this process in a controlled manner, by studying the physics and developing the technology of fusion reactors.
The most efficient fusion reaction reproducible in the laboratory takes place between two hydrogen (H) isotopes, deuterium (D) and tritium (T), which are heated to hundreds of millions of degrees, creating a plasma. One way to achieve a controlled fusion reaction is inside a device called a tokamak – a donut-shaped cage – where magnetic fields are used to contain and control the hot plasma.
Fusion ingredients are abundant on earth, and no greenhouse gases or long-lived nuclear waste are created by fusion. Once harnessed, fusion power will be a nearly unlimited, safe and climate friendly energy source.
Fusion research is a global effort, which is currently focused on the Fusion Roadmap aimed at achieving power generation within 30 years. Currently, the major project is the construction of ITER in southern France. The largest tokamak ever built, ITER aims to confirm that fusion power is feasible on a commercial scale.
The research in Controlled Nuclear Fusion at IPFN is organized into the following groups:
Intense Lasers and Plasmas Technology
The plasma state is commonly called the fourth state of matter. It is generated when energy is provided to a solid, liquid or gas such that a fraction of its atoms are ionised.
The plasma state is the most abundant state of visible matter in the universe, comprising the stars and the interstellar space. On Earth, we are used to natural plasmas, in the form of lightning and flames; and artificial plasmas such as plasma TV displays and fluorescent lamps.
Plasmas come in an amazing variety of parameters, making plasma science a fascinating subject, both at the fundamental and application levels. Plasma-based technologies are used today in a variety of fields spanning from microelectronics and materials processing to waste treatment and environmental control, biotechnology and health care.
Laser-produced plasmas are test beds for extreme regimes of nature, where electrons can oscillate at relativistic velocities – and, for instance, become accelerated to GeV energies in a few millimetres, thanks to the overwhelming electric fields associated to electron plasma waves.
Research at IPFN in plasma technologies and intense lasers is dedicated to investigating a multitude of topics in these areas, encompassing theory, simulation and experimental research, in a strongly international environment, and in the frame of several important collaborations with world-leading institutions.
The research in Intense Lasers and Plasmas Technology at IPFN is organized into the following groups: