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Launching the exploration of the unknown

-Sabina Griffith

Magnum-PSI: an ''absolutely fabulous piece of equipment.'' Photo credit: © Alex Poelman, DIFFER (Click to view larger version...)
Magnum-PSI: an ''absolutely fabulous piece of equipment.'' Photo credit: © Alex Poelman, DIFFER
"The method works ... nowhere else in the world." Metres of black velvet, clouds of dry ice and the melodramatic Bachianas brasileiras by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos were part of the spectacular opening show for the Magnum-PSI facility at the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER) in Rijnhuisen on Thursday 22 March.

After having produced its first magnetized plasma beam on 4 October 2011, the Magnum-PSI facility is now ready to perform the experiments that will allow fusion researchers to investigate the complicated interactions between the plasma and the wall material in a reactor-relevant regime.

The chairman of the FOM funding agency for physics research in the Netherlands, Niek Lopes Cardozo, welcomed the invited guests and the many young scientists and students from DIFFER by stressing the importance of this new international experimental facility.

Tony Donné, head of the research unit for fusion at DIFFER, and ITER Director-General Motojima. © Alex Poelman, DIFFER (Click to view larger version...)
Tony Donné, head of the research unit for fusion at DIFFER, and ITER Director-General Motojima. © Alex Poelman, DIFFER
"The plasma-surface interaction in ITER is an exploration of the unknown, so we'd better have an experimental facility where we can really achieve the conditions of ITER," Lopez-Cardozo said. "Magnum-PSI is that facility. It is the only device in the world capable of working in this parameter campaign."

On behalf of the ITER Organization, Director-General Osamu Motojima congratulated the institute on its milestone. "The opening of Magnum-PSI is of great significance to the ITER project and to the whole fusion community. This installation will enable us to anticipate the way materials behave—and fatigue—when in prolonged contact with a fusion plasma. The work accomplished here will be of the utmost importance for ITER and for what lies beyond." 

Richard Pitts, senior scientist for the Divertor & Plasma Wall Interactions Section at ITER, stressed the importance of the facility for materials research. "Materials—and I think we all agree here—are the biggest challenge for the development of fusion energy. With Magnum-PSI you now have an absolutely fabulous piece of equipment that is capable of exposing materials and material technologies to long-pulse plasmas at ITER divertor-relevant power and particle flux densities in a strong magnetic field. The value of Magnum-PSI is considerable." 

The curtain has fallen, the smoke is settling ... Guests have a first view of the machine. © Alex Poelman, DIFFER (Click to view larger version...)
The curtain has fallen, the smoke is settling ... Guests have a first view of the machine. © Alex Poelman, DIFFER
In the afternoon the four group leaders of the Magnum-PSI project—Pedro Zeijlmans van Emmichoven, Gerard van Rooij, Greg de Temmerman and Wim Goedheer—presented the research program that will begin as soon as the smoke of the opening ceremony has faded away.

Click here to find out more about DIFFER and Magnum-PSI. 


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