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Joint ICTP–IAEA College Launches E-learning Course on Fusion Applications, Provides Training


During the Joint ICTP–IAEA College on Plasma Physics for Fusion Applications, David Hatch provided lectures on 'Energetics in Plasma Turbulence.' Hatch is a research scientist from the University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Fusion Studies. (Photo: S. Gonzalez de Vicente/IAEA)

The scientific breakthrough in nuclear fusion spotlights the potential for abundant carbon-free energy. As scientists seek to recreate and harness the power of nuclear fusion, the IAEA fosters international collaboration in fusion research and development by facilitating exchange of scientific and technical information. The IAEA recently expanded its reach with the launch of a virtual course on fusion applications.

Last month, the IAEA and the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) launched the online course, Fundamentals and Application of Plasma Physics including Fusion Plasmas, for advanced students and researchers. “A renewed interest to develop fusion as a promising reliable source of energy to fight against climate change and to help achieve the objectives of net zero emissions has strongly emerged in the past years,” said Sehila Gonzalez de Vicente, Nuclear Fusion Physicist at the IAEA and one of the directors of the course. “This enthusiasm is also shared by a new generation of fusion students and researchers from all around the world who want to be trained in this discipline.”

Based on lectures given at the Joint ICTP–IAEA College on Plasma Physics for Fusion Applications, the e-learning course targets students who have a degree in physics or physics-related studies, such as astrophysics, mathematics and engineering, and who may want to learn about plasma physics to pursue a master’s degree or PhD. “The mostly theory-based course is also suitable for PhD students and young researchers interested in a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of plasma physics,” Gonzalez de Vicente said. Plasma physics revolves around the physical properties of plasmas. Often referred to as the ‘fourth state of matter’ after solids, liquids and gasses, plasmas are formed at high temperatures and consist of positive ions and free-moving electrons. Fusion reactions take place in this state of matter.

The 30-hour course features 15 lectures organized into three chapters – introduction to plasma physics, applications of fluid and kinetic theories, and magnetic confinement for nuclear fusion. It is freely available through the IAEA’s Cyber Learning Platform for Network Education and Training (CLP4NET), along with more than 120 courses and webinars related to the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. See the e-learning course catalogue.

In-person training

The IAEA and the ICTP also recently held a Joint ICTP–IAEA College on Plasma Physics for Fusion Applications, bringing together 30 students and young researchers in Trieste, Italy, in support of the next generation of fusion scientists.

Participants at the course from 7 to 18 November learned about the fundamental processes in plasma physics and applications to magnetic fusion – from theory and experiments to design, simulations and interpretation of results. “The training gave us the broadest perspective possible in just two weeks,” said Jyoti Malik, course attendee and assistant professor of physics at the Government College for Women in Gurawara, Haryana, India.

The cohort of 30 students came from 14 countries – Bolivia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, Thailand and the United States of America. “One of the unique features of this particular course is the IAEA’s support towards the participation of students from developing countries by providing grants,” said Gonzalez de Vicente. “Courses offered by other organizations are usually attended by participants from countries that have established fusion research and development programmes. By focusing on developing countries, we are reaching students from countries with less fusion exposure and access to learn more about the science, to establish a network and to get involved in the fusion field. We seek to expand the fusion community and encourage participation from developing countries.”

The course is held every two years, contributing to the transfer of knowledge and fostering the growth of studies and research, especially in developing countries.

The IAEA has supported fusion energy research since the Agency’s inception and organizes the biennial Fusion Energy Conference; the next conference will take place in London, 16–21 October 2023. The IAEA also manages publication of the Nuclear Fusion journal, hosts the Fusion Portal and Fusion Device Information System (FusDIS), and has more than 15 planned or ongoing fusion-related coordinated research projects. The next College on Plasma Physics for Fusion Applications will take place in 2024.

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