Students and junior scientists from around the world will gather at the ATandT Conference Center at The University of Texas at Austin from May 31-June 4 to attend the first International Summer School to be held in the United States on behalf of ITER, an experiment aimed at proving the viability of fusion as an energy source.
ITER is a large-scale scientific experiment, presently under construction, that will collect the data necessary for the design and subsequent operation of an electricity-producing fusion power plant. The purpose of the international school is to educate young scientists and students on the issues involved with the physics and engineering of this scientific experiment.
Fusion is a nuclear reaction in which two light atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus and in doing so, release a large amount of energy. Fusion is the process that powers the sun. It has the potential to liberate very large amounts of energy from small quantities of fuel, making it a leading contender to provide a sustainable source of clean energy to supply the growing world economy.
The ITER experiment is being built by a partnership among the United States, Europe, Russia, China, Japan, Korea and India, which represent more than half the world’s population. A key goal of the experiment is to generate 10 times as much power as is used to operate the reactor.
The host for the school is the Institute for Fusion Studies, a national center for theoretical research in plasma physics and fusion energy science that is part of the College of Natural Sciences.
The institute’s director, Dr. James Van Dam, also is head of the U.S. Burning Plasma Organization, which is entrusted by the U.S. Department of Energy with coordinating the participation of the United States fusion community in the ITER project.
Three scientists from the institute will be among the 20 lecturers at the school, and about 30 graduate and undergraduate students from the university will join more than 80 other international participants.
For the first time, the school will offer a workshop where students will design a plasma control system using commercial computational design tools. Because of the difficulty of achieving conditions necessary for the fusion reaction, control systems — the theme of this year’s school — play a central role in sustaining the reaction and allowing the goals of the experiment to be achieved. Austin-based National Instruments Corp. is a sponsor of the school.