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Expanding Educational Opportunities


Plasma-material interactions is one of the most serious technology issues in fusion energy science, and ORNL and faculty members within the Nuclear Engineering Department at UT have made significant progress in advancing the understanding of this subject.

mshowers ir cameraDr. David Donovan’s JDRD project continues this advancement by supporting a graduate student, Melissa Showers, in working with ORNL’s existing equipment to study plasma-material interactions relevant to fusion energy experimental reactors. In keeping with the Science Alliance’s goal of student mentoring, Showers is gaining a valuable skill set by utilizing an infrared camera to observe the Proto-MPEX device as it exposes sample materials to intense ion damage, experiments which could help predict how damage will occur in fusion reactors.

Showers began the project with very little previous hands on experience with heat flux characterization diagnostics. However, since starting her work, she has learned to perform sophisticated calibrations and has taken data from these experiments for presentation at group meetings.

“This work will continue through the summer and fall, and we are planning to expand the scope of the project to include several other types of heat flux diagnostics in order to create an integrated suite of tools that will provide higher accuracy and confidence in our measurements,” wrote Donovan.

Final 2The work performed by Showers has proven beneficial to ORNL as the facility lacked the staff to conduct these experiments. Additionally, she will have the opportunity to present her findings at the 57th Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics Conference, the largest plasma physics conference in the U.S.

“The APS DPP meeting is the largest conference in the plasma community,” wrote Donovan. “It’s an excellent opportunity for her to discuss the work taking place on the project, and for her to learn more about other research taking place in the field.”