March 7, 2016
On March 4, sixteen members of MIT Corporation Partners Program enjoyed breakfast at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) as part of a morning of talks and tours revolving around MIT energy research and LIGO’s recent observation of gravitational waves from colliding black holes.
Prof. Dennis Whyte, Head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering and Director of the PSFC, welcomed the guests with a brief talk about fusion, focusing on its value as a safe, low-carbon energy source. Explaining MIT’s history of creating small, fusion devices with very high magnetic fields, he noted that “small can be mighty” - more quickly realized and more economical than larger experiments.
Whyte offered the attendees Google cardboard glasses. Equipped with cell phones set up for an internet tour of the PSFC, they provided a 3D view of the Alcator C-Mod tokamak interior and surroundings.
Having been virtually inside MIT’s compact tokamak, the Partners heard next from PSFC graduate student Brandon Sorbom about how breakthroughs in high-temperature superconductor technology had inspired students in Whyte’s Fusion Technology course to design “the smallest reactor possible.” Recently published in the journal Fusion Engineering Design, the proposed ARC fusion experiment would produce the same fusion power at 1/6th the volume of ITER, the large-scale next-step tokamak currently being constructed in France.
The morning program continued with Associate Head of the Department of Physics Prof. Nergis Mavalvala detailing the science behind the recent headline-making observation of gravitational waves at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), a joint project operated by MIT and the California Institute of Technology. LIGO shares some building space with the PSFC. Mavalvala led the group on a tour of LIGO, before they moved across the street to meet the Director of the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, Dr. David Moncton, and received a tour of that facility.
The MIT Corporation Partners Program provides opportunities for partners of Corporation members to observe the most recent research being done on campus, and to meet with researchers and students during the MIT Corporation quarterly meetings. The theme of the March 2016 quarter was Physics.