High-resolution multi-scale simulations can solve multiple turbulence instabilities: Study

High-resolution multi-scale simulations can solve multiple turbulence instabilit

Physicists are getting a better idea on factors that influence the behavior of the plasma turbulence driven by severe heating required to create fusion energy. Advanced simulations run at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) are helping the physicists to have a better understanding.

The study team has been able to find many answers to questions about plasma heat loss, which have earlier foiled efforts to predict the performance of fusion reactors and help pave the way for alternative energy source.

In order to make fusion work, it is important to maintain a high temperature and density so the atoms in the reactor can overcome their mutual repulsion and club together to form helium. But the process won’t happen without turbulence and that can increase the rate of plasma heat loss. Researchers have been in the lookout for the reason that causes the turbulence.

Researchers at MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center in collaboration with the colleagues at University of California at San Diego (UCSD) and General Atomics have found a solution for the issue. They have carried out high-resolution multi-scale simulations to resolve multiple turbulence instabilities.

When series of these multi-scale simulations were run on NERSC's Edison system, it was found that interactions between turbulence at the smallest scale to that of large scale can account for the mismatch between theoretical predictions and experimental observations of the heat loss.

Study’s lead researcher Nathan Howard from MIT's Plasma and Fusion Science Center said that the findings can significantly improve knowledge about what is actually going on inside the current research experiments taking place in the world and future research experimental reactors under construction or planning.

“In this particular work, we have shown that using the coupled model—where you capture both the large-scale and small-scale turbulence simultaneously—you can actually reproduce the experimental electron heat losses, in part because there appear to be strong interactions between the large-scale and small-scale turbulence that weren't well understood previously”, affirmed Professor Howard.

The researchers have affirmed that their study has been conducted between 100 million and 120 million CPU hours on Edison.

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