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Let the Phun begin

After spending a the major part of my Master’s abroad (USA/Korea), I decided to settle down in my home country the Netherlands for a while. I applied for a PhD position at the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER) in Utrecht to work on the synthesis of exotic nanostructures on carbon under extreme plasma conditions.

This is my contribution to FuseNet. Get to know about my PhD project, my happy moments as well as my misery. Before talking about my first two weeks here at DIFFER, let me first tell you about a really cool event I went to before even being officially accepted as PhD.

‘Where no material dears to go’

This was the title of the workshop held at the Lorentz Centrum in Leiden. It aimed to address the question on the fundamental limits of material erosion in the extreme plasma environments of nuclear fusion devices. The workshop started off with some depressing damage issues such as material degradation and erosion. Later on though, some talks gave a new hope, e.g. the concepts of liquid walls and self-healing materials.

What intrigued me throughout the workshop, was that both experts from the fields were invited as well as researchers outside the fusion community. For decades fusion science happened too much behind closed doors. We haven’t yet built the fusion plant we promised. Perhaps it’s time for other fields to help us? Well, sometimes support can come from sides you don’t expect..

For example, what has material welding in heavy industry to do with a liquid metal divertor in a fusion reactor? A researcher of Australia's national science agency CSIRO, Tony Murphy, gave a talk about a simulation of arc welding in industry. His answer: in both cases vapor shielding occurs. This is a process in which evaporated gas between target and plasma limits the heat conduction from the plasma to the target. CSIRO's simulation code of arc welding can be applied to liquid walls as well, a concrete example of interdisciplanry knowledge transfer and learning.

PhD Travel award

In order to stimulate the interaction of PhD students with the researchers in the informal parts of the program, the organizers informed us about a PhD travel award. By handing-in a one week research proposal, we made a change to actually go to the specific research institute and perform the experiments.

I was thinking of the vapor shielding effect as possible topic. I guess one reason was that this research was performed in Australia, the other side of the globe. The night before the deadline I wrote a short but dense proposal and the next day I got to know I won a travel award to Sydney! A not too unfortunate start for someone who didn’t even officially start yet.

Okay, that’s all for now. Stay tuned for my experiments I want to present at the conference on Plasma Surface Interactions in Kanazawa, Japan at the end of May this year.