Zhaonan Qu, 2015, Mathematics

Fusion energy is among one of the several promising new energy resources. However, a major technical issue remains unsolved for fusion energy reactors: Temperature in the Scrape-Off Layer (SOL, the part of the plasma immediately in contact with reactor walls) remains hard to control, which could lead to major disruptions that break a sustainable fusion reaction. This summer I worked at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory on a project that aims to determine the cooling efficiencies of several different elements in fusion plasma, and explored their viability as alternatives to current elements to cool the plasma in the SOL. To this end, I performed MATLAB numerical simulations of one-dimensional cooling models utilizing data from Atomic Data and Analysis Structure to compare how lithium, beryllium, and carbon behave in terms of cooling efficiency. I discovered that carbon and nitrogen have very similar cooling efficiency-temperature curves, while those of lithium and beryllium bear striking resemblance to each other. Throughout the project, I gained valuable experience with MATLAB, and also acquired some knowledge of atomic physics and energy sciences. More importantly, I had a great experience at a major energy sciences research site that showed me what real research in that field is like.