Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development
Nuclear Department

Plasma studies and DTT

The Nuclear Fusion is the physical principle that rules the production of energy in the sun and the stars. In order to realize, in the next future, a source of green energy, with low costs and virtually inexhaustible, able to free the planet from dependence on fossil fuels, it is necessary to perform studies and experiments able to reproduce in  laboratory fusion reactions. Such studies are being carried out by the Plasma studies and DTT Division of the FSN Department.

Studies focus on the main methods used to reach the high temperature and pressures needed to allow the nuclear fusion: the so-called “magnetic confinement”, that makes use of magnetic fields to set up a “container” for the plasma to be heated, and the “inertial confinement”, that makes use of ultra-powerful laser to heat and compress the nuclear fuel.

Multidisciplinary and innovative technologies are required for such activities. Such technologies also find applications in other research and industrial fields, with several interesting application outcomes.

The Division's scientific team coordinates ENEA's participation in the many research activities on the European and international fusion program experiments (JET, JT60, WEST, TCV, ASDEX Upgrade, EAST…).

Theoretical studies are focused on the development of theories, models and computational codes, applied to thermonuclear plasmas and validated using experimental data, with a special focus to plasmas under ignition conditions and instability phenomena. Such experimental activities have been taking place for over half a century at the Frascati research center, in Italy, where in 2019 came to an end the experimental activity of the Frascati Tokamak Upgrade (FTU), built in 1989 as an evolution of former FT machine, which in this timespan has delivered several relevant results in the field of high magnetic field plasma confinement, plasma heating and control and successful studies on liquid metal components such as tin and lithium,  and on the control of fast electrons.

Theoretical and experimental activities also proceed on experiments the study of different plasma magnetic configurations, like the PROTO-SPHERA experiment, currently underway at the Frascati research center, on astrophysical plasmas and on plasma-based accelerator systems.

The whole Division participates in the implementation of the recently approved “Divertor Tokamak Test facility” (DTT) project. For these activities, the Division carries out experimental programs aimed to a deeper understanding of the physical phenomena of magnetic confinement fusion, while simultaneously carrying out theoretical and modelling activities, so as to finalize its  physics program and the management of experimental equipment, contributing to the realization of diagnostics, auxiliary and plasma heating systems, neutronic and photonic shielding for the buildings and both control and data acquisition systems.

Activities also include active participation in the experimental campaigns using other machines, such as the Joint European Torus (JET), and the interpretation of experimental data coming from EUROfusion experiments and from machines located in other international laboratories.

Together with the studies on magnetic confinement, the Division deals with inertial confinement through the development and testing of the ABC experiment currently running at the Frascati research center, aimed at the study on inertial fusion, also in collaboration with other national and international research groups. The experiment is characterized for a relevant number of high performances diagnostic set.

The Division is also involved, in the framework of international collaborations, in the study of high gradient particles acceleratotors based on plasma systems.

In order to perform activities in these fields, ENEA has carried out research and has developed technologies in other interdisciplinary sectors, for example through the development of innovative radiation generation systems in the extreme UV and in the Soft X-ray region, the generation of electromagnetic pulses (EMP), the development of technologies for the realization of high efficiency - high power lasers and free electron sources, the development of THz imaging systems (using radiation in the frequency range close to microwaves), and the research and development of radiation sources, and related diagnostics, in the whole spectral range from microwaves to X-rays. All these activities, in addition to being functional to fusion studies, find application in many other interdisciplinary sectors, such us the biomedical and the cultural heritage conservation fields.

In addition to its experimental activities, the Division staff engages in training activities for young researchers from Italy and abroad, collaborates in the supervision of degree and doctoral theses in the closely involved activities, promotes educational and dissemination activities in collaboration with universities and other research centers.

Application of THz-3D imaging to cultural heritage

Imaging THZ
Application of THz-3D imaging to cultural heritage
Laser ABC
ABC laser for inertial confinement fusion studies
FTU discharge
Plasma discharge in the FTU vacuum chamber