Reseach unit Nuclear Fusion develops new standard for performance of fusion reactors

(01-06-2021) A new international standard to compare and predict the energy confinement in fusion devices has been made possible through statistical methods developed within the Ghent research unit infusion.

The research for the development of thermonuclear fusion for power generation intends to make a substantial contribution to the climate and energy problem by the middle of the century. Based on the fusion of light atomic nuclei that can be extracted from seawater, nuclear fusion holds out the prospect of a clean, safe and stable power source that is as good as inexhaustible. With the recent start in France of the assembly of ITER, the world’s largest fusion device, and the ongoing design of a new generation of demonstration reactors, the realization of the “dream energy source” is approaching steadily.

The new fusion device ITER and the planned generation of demonstration reactors DEMO will be significantly larger than the current tokamaks. Reliable predictions of the quality of the magnetic confinement of the thermal energy are essential. (Source)

The new standard yields very good predictions of the typical confinement time of the thermal energy in the present generation of tokamaks, and is an excellent tool for extrapolation to ITER.

One of the final remaining challenges in the research is the continual improvement of the magnetic confinement of the plasma – the fuel mixture wherein fusion reactions take place at temperatures that are ten times higher than in the centre of the sun. The research unit Nuclear Fusion (infusion) at Ghent University, led by Professor Geert Verdoolaege, has recently developed a new standard, a formula that allows to calculate, better than before, the quality of thermal confinement in fusion experiments. The previous version of this standard was already more than twenty years old, and new insights and experimental results required a revision. Indeed, the formula is essential for determining the optimal conditions for good confinement of the plasma by magnetic fields in so-called tokamaks, and is used worldwide in fusion laboratories as a yardstick. The new standard will allow better planning of experiments, comparison of results by different teams and improved design and performance of future fusion reactors. This result was partly made possible through advanced statistical methods developed within the research unit in Ghent.

More information

The paper is published in Nuclear Fusion, the acknowledged world-leading journal specializing in fusion: The updated ITPA global H-mode confinement database: description and analysis

G. Verdoolaege, S.M. Kaye, C. Angioni, O.J.W.F. Kardaun, M. Maslov, M. Romanelli, F. Ryter, K. Thomsen, the ASDEX Upgrade Team, the EUROfusion MST1 Team and JET Contributors.


Research Unit Nuclear Fusion (infusion)Department of Applied Physics

Prof. Geert Verdoolaege

Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 41, B4 | 9000 Gent