Fusion Technology

Columbia participants study the enabling technologies required for fusion energy production. Our first project studies the interaction of cryogenically frozen gas with high energy particle beams simulating plasma

Pellets at Columbia

Fusion reactions require extremely high temperatures–in excess of 100 million degrees Celsius–where the fuel is in a plasma (a very high energy gas) state and must be confined using magnetic fields. In case of an unexpected event, researchers must quickly shut down the high-temperature plasma by injecting small, cryogenically frozen cylinders called “pellets” that are made of a variety of hydrogen isotopes and other gasses such as neon or argon. 

The injection of solid pellet material into the fusion plasma enables researchers to deposit ions deep inside the device. This deposition occurs through a process called ablation, in which layers of atoms are vaporized from the outer surface of the pellet and then ionized due to the high temperatures. The research team plans to directly measure the ablation of various pellet types to validate and improve current computational ablation models. 

The experiment is under construction in the Plasma Physics Laboratory of Columbia University, with some components provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The system consists of vacuum chambers, cryogenics to freeze the gas, and high-voltage equipment for high energy particle beams.

Scientific goals of the experiment include quantifying the ablation of the pellet under bombardment from high energy particle beams. This ablation rate will be compared to theoretical predictions. Additionally, advanced recipes for producing pellets will be developed that can later be exported to national-scale user facilities.

Disruption Mitigation

This project is a part of Columbia University's broader disruption mitigation research, carried out also on the DIII-D National Fusion Facility.


Faculty and Staff

  • Carlos Paz-Soldan