New EPSRC Industrial CASE PhD Studentship Available

A new PhD Industrial CASE studentship funded jointly by the EPSRC and Culham Centre for Fusion Energy has just been awarded to the School. Applications are now invited for this studentship, which fully covers University tuition fees and provides a tax-free bursary of up to £17,430 per annum.

Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) is at the forefront of fusion research with its exciting potential as a long term environmentally friendly energy source for future generations as well as its wide-ranging science. CCFE is home to the Mega Ampère Spherical Tokamak (MAST), a world class fusion research facility and flagship of the UK fusion programme, as well as the Joint European Torus (JET), the world’s largest Tokamak, which is operated by CCFE on behalf of the European fusion community.

Funding is now available for a major upgrade of the MAST experiment, allowing it to run much longer pulses at higher power levels. Since a typical fusion plasma is at a temperature of about 23,000,000 degrees C, it can only be contained by magnetic fields that keep the plasma away from physical surfaces, i.e. The plasma is held in a ‘magnetic bottle’.

The real-time control system needs to use remote sensors to determine the plasma shape and position (and other parameters) and maintain it in the correct configuration to achieve optimum performance. In addition to this, the plasma ‘exhaust’ plume (called a divertor) needs to be carefully steered into a part of the machine that is specifically engineered to handle the extreme heat load of this plume. In a future power plant design this could be over 50MW per square metre, unless novel ways can be found to mitigate this heat load.

The geometry of the MAST experiment makes it ideal to explore one such concept called the ‘Super-X Divertor’, and this will be installed in the upgrade. This involves guiding the divertor at first down into an enclosed volume without touching the sides on entry, then expanding it to a large radius before it touches the material surface of the outer target plate. This spreads the heat over a larger area and also allows the plume to be cooled by radiation before it reaches the target. However, this creates a challenge for the control system of being able to use magnetic steering to simultaneously maintain the plasma shape and position whilst also guiding the plume into the divertor channel without touching any surface on the way to the target.

Application Requirements
Applicants should have a good honours degree (either first class or upper second class) or hold an MSc in a relevant Engineering or Physical Science discipline.

For general admission information, please email Helen Winder, Postgraduate Admissions support on; for informal inquires, interested applicants are also encouraged to contact Professor Sarah Spurgeon (email:

For a direct link to the application form, please visit
and select PhD in Electronic Engineering from the drop down menu, stating in you application that you wish to work in the area of Fusion Control.

Closing Date for applications: 16 April 2010.