Special Nature Physics issue on nuclear fusion

By . Published on 23 June 2016 in:
June 2016, News, , , , ,

The May 2016 issue of the journal Nature Physics features an ‘Insight’ on nuclear fusion ( — a collection of commissioned Commentaries and Reviews highlighting various aspects of fusion science, from the basic physics involved to the practical difficulties ahead.  This special issue also contains an interview with ITER’s Director-General, Bernard Bigot, who reflects on the status of the biggest tokamak ever, now under construction in France, and the challenges associated with managing such a huge international project.

In addition, Mark Buchanan, who writes for Nature Physics every month, points out that plasmas are truly omnipresent, and that the quintessence of both magnetic-confinement fusion and laser fusion — the two most promising approaches to fusion energy — lies in dealing with plasma instabilities.

In one of three Commentaries, Steven Cowley provides the arguments in favour of nuclear fusion as an energy source — and the problems we still have to solve.  Next, Alexander Melnikov shows that, despite the seemingly applied nature of fusion research, lots of fundamental plasma physics has been, and is likely to be, discovered on our quest to energy from fusion.  In a third Commentary, we are reminded by Rob Buckingham and Antony Loving that fusion is not only about physics: there is a lot of state-of-the-art engineering involved too.  Remote-handling technologies, for example, have advanced tremendously via tokamak research.

Four Reviews go into the details of fusion physics. Jozef Ongena and colleagues review magnetic fusion, studied in tokamaks and stellarators worldwide.  Ambrogio Fasoli and colleagues show that our understanding of magnetically confined plasmas has greatly benefited from increasingly better computer simulations.  The extreme conditions in tokamaks and stellarators, as well as irradiation damage, call for appropriate materials; Juan Knaster and colleagues provide an overview of fusion materials research.  Finally, Riccardo Betti and Omar Hurricane present a comprehensive survey of inertial-confinement fusion approaches.

Great care has been taken to make the Nature Physics Insight accessible to non-specialists.  Therefore, this special issue should be a valuable source of information for a broad audience, and is likely to become reference literature for years to come.  Highly recommended to both colleagues interested in learning more about nuclear fusion and seasoned plasma scientists.

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