MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center

MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center


The MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) provides research and educational opportunities that expand our understanding of plasma physics, its applications, and magnet technology. As a multidisciplinary lab, the PSFC leverages translational science to create real-world solutions, with a focus on developing magnetic fusion as a carbon-free energy source.  


Massachusetts Institute of Technology Plasma Science and Fusion Center logo


The MIT PSFC engages in the DIII-D program on multiple levels. Major facility upgrades like design and installation of an advanced current drive system and novel diagnostics are ongoing. Experimental science coupled with modeling and simulation are a central focus, with scientists and students stationed onsite at DIII-D and on campus at MIT leading physics groups, conducting experiments, and contributing to the analysis ecosystem. Graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and staff scientists participate at varying levels in research areas spanning advanced current drive techniques, disruption science and machine learning, pedestal and core-edge integration physics, plasma transport, and diagnostic development. 

Heating and Current Drive: Steve Wukitch 

San Diego Team: Mirela Cengher, Samuel Pierson, Evan Leppink, and Malcolm Gould 

Cambridge Team: Steve Wukitch (lead), Ivan Garcia, Yijun Lin, Grant Rutherford, Andrew Seltzman, William Wright, James Ridzon , and Jacob van de Lindt 

A scientist in an orange jumpsuit and PPE works inside the reactor vessel.
Samuel Pierson inside the DIII-D vacuum vessel.
Two scientists standing with a box containing copper waveguides.
Mirela Cengher and Samuel Pierson with High Field Side Lower Hybrid waveguides.
A scientist stands in front of a klystron.
Evan Leppink.

The PSFC team is developing robust tools for heating and current drive in fusion reactor environments and diagnostics to characterize high field side scrape off layer, wave coupling and absorption. The team is contributing a major hardware enhancement to DIII-D, which will drive off-axis current using a High Field Side (HFS) launched Lower Hybrid Current Drive (LHCD) System. HFS-LHCD system and diagnostics will allow assessment of the expected benefits of HFS launch on power coupling, validation of understanding of LH edge interactions, and evaluation of current drive efficiency and profile control in a range of plasma scenarios.  

Disruption Prevention Strategies for Tokamak Plasmas: Cristina Rea

Cambridge Team: Cristina Rea (lead), Robert Granetz, Andrew Maris, Zander Keith, Stuart Benjamin, Ben Stein-Lubrano, and Henry Wietfeldt

A scientist stands in front of a blue sign reading "DIII-D National Fusion Facility"
Cristina Rea.
A group of scientists sit around a table in a restaurant.
Clockwise from left: Andrew Maris, Ben Stein-Lubrano, Cesar Clauser, Robert Granetz, Cristina Rea, Ryan Sweeney, Darren Garnier, Alex Tinguely, and Zander Keith.

The PSFC team is actively engaged in all areas of Disruption Research at DIII-D, devising solutions for nextgeneration devices. Research topics include machine learningdriven predictive algorithms and their integration in control systems, tearing stability for reactorrelevant scenarios, experimental planning for offnormal event handling, runaway electron research and alternative mitigation strategies through passive coils. 

Pedestal and Core Edge Integration: Theresa Wilks

San Diego Team: Theresa Wilks (lead) and Raul Miguelanez 

Cambridge Team: Jerry Hughes, Amanda Hubbard, Darin Ernst, Amelia Cavallaro, Jeremy Fleishhacker, and Jamie Dunsmore 

A scientist smiles in front of the DIII-D cross-section.
Theresa Wilks.
Two scientists sit in front of fermenter tanks at a brewery.
Theresa Wilks and Amanda Hubbard at a local brewery.
A scientist pushes a button on a machine connected to a computer.
Jerry Hughes manipulating a vacuum bake chamber for degassing components.

Research activities center on what determines the density in high-confinement tokamak plasmas, asking what are the processes that fuel up the fusion core through the edge and how does this project to future devices that seek to make net energy. Experimental work focuses on data from DIII-D’s LLAMA diagnostic. Core-Edge integration studies focus on coupling a highperformance core/pedestal with a dissipative or detached divertor with additional attention to ELM mitigation.

Core Transport: Nathan Howard

San Diego Team: Arsene Tema 

Cambridge Team: Nathan Howard (lead), Pablo Rodriguez-Fernandez, and Ivan Marshall

A scientist stands in front of equipment.
Nathan Howard.

The MIT team advances the integration of core, pedestal and SOL transport models and accelerates experimental development of favorable burning plasmarelevant scenarios using unique capabilities such as the Laser Blow-off System (LBO) and Bayesian Optimization techniques to accelerate first-principles transport simulations. Experiments coupled with both highfidelity transport simulations and reduced models allow investigation of multi-channel interactions of core turbulence and self-consistent profile prediction capabilities of state-of-the-art predictive frameworks.

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Phase Contrast Imaging for Multiscale Measurements of Turbulence, MHD, and Helicon Waves: Miklos Porkolab

San Diego Team: Chris Rost 

Cambridge Team: Miklos Porkolab (lead)

A scientist smiles in front of a white wall.
Miklos Porkolab.
A scientist in front of a white wall.
Chris Rost.

The MIT-PCI team maintains and operates the Phase Contrast Imaging diagnostic installed on the DIII-D tokamak. The diagnostic is an internal reference interferometer that detects electron density perturbations induced by plasma turbulence, MHD modes or highpower RF waves such as helicons. The diagnostic is absolutely calibrated, thus allowing a quantitative benchmark of theoretical models via synthetic diagnostic tools.

Joining the MIT Team

Check out available openings to join our team at: 

Interested in including DIII-D resources in a FIRE Collaborative proposal? Click here to learn about DIII-D capabilities & how to incorporate them into your proposal!