Nuclear fusion is perhaps the most tantalizing energy technology in development today, with the potential to completely redefine the world’s energy supply system. As part of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering’s broad effort to make fusion power a reality, Assistant Professor Anne White is building new understanding of the still-mysterious conditions inside tokamaks, the experimental test beds where fusion reactions occur at temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees.
White’s primary workbench is the department’s Alcator C-Mod, one of three tokamak user facilities in the U.S. and a hub of collaboration for national laboratories and international researchers as well as Institute faculty and students. Work is largely focused on the grand challenge of fusion: the need to contain an ongoing fusion reaction and capture its massive heat output for electric power generation. Success would open the door to a large-scale source of continuous power with no carbon emissions or hazardous waste problems, and fuel that could largely be extracted from ordinary seawater.