André Neto

At the time of writing this article André Neto is still awaiting his award from the committee of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Real Time conference. According to their own words, the IEEE is “The world’s leading professional association for the advancement of technology”.

Secondee André Neto from the Portuguese association Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) was awarded for his “outstanding” student paper presented last May in Beijing at this prestigious conference.

André decided not to start with a thesis right away after he finished his diploma in Physics Engineering. As a result, he has gained experience in the field of plasma operation. When a few years later a new European PhD in Fusion Science & Technology was created it seemed to him the perfect time to apply.

JET Insight: You have been working at JET a couple of years before starting your thesis in 2008 within the same group. Obviously you like the scientific environment. What do you like in particular?

André Neto: “The people I work with tend to be very demanding. They expect me to do my best by setting the goal quite high. That can be sometimes painful but on the other hand it is a huge force to drive you on. Secondly you can always find people who are willing to discuss scientific problems with you. For instance it is a custom at JET to prepare each talk by giving a rehearsal. This rehearsal is much more exhausting than the real presentation afterwards because you are talking to experts! When I did the rehearsal for the IEEE Real Time conference my colleagues gave me wonderful ideas”.

JET Insight: You are working in the Plasma Operation group specialising in the field of vertical stabilisation. What does this mean?

André Neto: “The vertical stabilisation plasma control upgrade project is a large European project being carried out at JET. In general terms, elongated plasmas are vertically unstable and require an active and dedicated control of the vertical velocity. That means that you have to find ways to keep the plasma in place. This is done by driving current in the poloidal field coils. To do so you need state of the art hardware, good Real Time software, precise controller tunings, very good models and a very good Real Time operating system”.

JET Insight: What is Real Time about?

André Neto: “Real Time is about a promise. In the field of vertical stabilisation we promise to react to vertical displacements of the plasma every 50 micro seconds – and we do in a very precise manner. To be precise is necessary because if we gradually start to arrive some micro seconds later, after a few hundred the plasma won’t be there any more. This is why vertical stabilisation is so exciting: it is something that must work- if it doesn’t the entire experiment is useless.

We get information without interacting directly with the plasma. By looking at the effect the plasma has on diagnostic systems, we form an opinion about what is going on. It is like going to the doctor: he uses external instruments but he is not very sure of what is going on inside your organism. For us it is the same thing”.

JET Insight: Why do you think you got the award for the best student paper?

André Neto: “The IEEE Real Time conference is greatly influenced by particle physics such as at CERN. The conference’s main goal is to study the trends for Real Time and mostly for the hardware and software in this field.

We started to develop the framework and infrastructure for vertical stabilisation but it turns out that it is applicable to many other fields. That is the big impact of the paper. In addition, I think, the audience was mostly impressed by the few errors we presented in comparison to the promise we have made. I answered many questions from other participants. They were really interested to know how our system works. So, we attracted a lot of attention with our paper”.

The awarded paper

A. Neto, et al., “MARTe: a Multi-Platform Real-Time Framework,
“16th IEEE NPSS Real-Time Conference (NPSS-RT2009),
Beijing, People’s Republic of China, May 2009