Gabriel Gaitan, 2019, Physics
I worked on Samuel Cohen’s team to develop a highly efficient push-pull, class-E electrical amplifier to power an antenna. The antenna is used to heat plasma in the Princeton Field Reversed Configuration (PFRC) plasma reactor. Due to its small size and power range of 1 to 10 megawatts, a working PFRC reactor would be suitable as a clean power-producing reactor for terrestrial electricity generation and in NASA space missions, such as a human mission to Mars or in deflecting asteroids. The reactor uses aneutronic fusion, which greatly reduces neutron damage to the walls and reduces radioactivity by more than a factor of 1,000 compared to other nuclear-power sources. During this project, I learned how to simulate the amplifier, include effects of non-ideal components, use the lab equipment to build the circuit and test it, and, most importantly, model and find solutions to problems not present in the initial simulations. I learned a lot about using both simulations and experiments to both guide my project and to improve my models and understanding of theoretical and practical aspects. I also benefited from the guidance of people inside and outside of our group and I got a great taste of the life of a graduate student.