Mathematics Colloquium

Who Will Save Fusion- Harry Potter, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Shaquille O'Neal, or Donald Trump

Speaker: Jeffrey Freidberg, MIT

Location: Warren Weaver Hall 1302

Date: Monday, October 5, 2015, 3:45 p.m.


I am sure most of you are aware of the promise and outlook for fusion – the energy source of the future and it always will be. As long as the program is making scientific progress, even if slowly, I can laugh at this good natured ribbing. What is frightening now is that it may become a reality. A combination of politics, budget constraints, poor program management, and technological difficulties have put the whole fusion enterprise at risk. In today’s talk I will initially focus on the scientific and technological issues facing fusion by outlining the design of a fusion reactor. The design is shown to be dominated by engineering and nuclear physics constraints which then make demands on the plasma physics. Based on current experimental performance and theoretical understanding it will follow that plasma physics meets some of these demands but not others. Having identified the critical problems I suggest several possible solutions, as characterized by the fine gentlemen in the title. I will actually pick a winner. The final part of the talk describes the relationship between the outstanding technological problems just identified and the actual world fusion program with emphasis on the US program. Here is where even our super heroes may not succeed, but not because of a lack of scientific invention nor technological innovation.