One of the biggest challenges facing fusion physicists is controlling the plasma inside a tokamak reactor.
Plasma — a gas of the fuels that are heated to start the fusion process — is difficult to keep stable, and seeks to escape the magnetic field that confines it within the machine. This results in 'instabilities' which make the plasma wobble and fluctuate, taking energy away from it and affecting the tokamak’s performance.
Decades of research on tokamak experiments worldwide has led to a deep understanding of a myriad of different plasma instabilities with exotic names (from Edge Localised Modes to Tearing Modes, Kink instabilities and Sawteeth). Just as importantly, researchers are developing methods to stop them occurring, reduce their effect or stabilise them altogether.
Amongst all these challenges has been the fact that most of these instabilities, certainly those deep inside the plasma, are invisible to high-speed camera videos — until now, that is. University of York PhD student David Ryan is currently working at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy and he applied cutting-edge video magnification techniques to footage of plasmas in the MAST tokamak
to see what would emerge.
Read more on CCFE website