On 22nd September, the Center for Research in Plasma Physics (CRPP) became the Swiss Plasma Center (SPC) – a new name for Europe’s fusion research to count on. Since 1992, the Lausanne-based lab has hosted the ‘Tokamak à Configuration Variable’ (TCV),now one of three EUROfusion Medium Sized Tokamaks (MST). It has undergone a major upgrade and will not rest on its laurels. Currently, more than 120 European scientists are expected to attend experimental campaigns at the Swiss tokamak. A fact, which encourages Ambrogio Fasoli, the Director of the SPC. In his opinion, the ability to welcome so many European fusion scientists shows how exchange without borders is an advantage for all sides.

What does the new name of your institute mean for European fusion research?

It means that European fusion can count on an even stronger partner in Switzer land, with strong political support and solid bases across the whole country, with a long-term commitment to fusion research. We will continue to provide education and training for ITER and DEMO generations at all levels.

Ambrogio Fasoli, Director of the Swiss Plasma Center. (Image: private)

Ambrogio Fasoli, Director of the Swiss Plasma Center. (Image: private)

TCV will experience further upgrades within the next years. How do you proceed?

We are implementing two sets of upgrades. First we are investing about nine million Swiss francs to provide TCV with an improved heating system in order to approach reactor relevant conditions. Second, as part of the ‘rebranding’ of CRPP into the Swiss Plasma Center, we will invest another ten million Swiss francs over the next four years. This investment will enable our lab to expand on two thrust areas: the TCV tokamak systems and smaller and simpler devices for studies of basic processes of interest for fusion but also for astrophysics and other plasma industrial and societal applications.

Which ones?

These include, for example, the problem of plasma rotation which is important for tokamak stability, and that of cross-scale turbulences in complex systems which is crucial for energy transport in fusion reactors. These phenomena happen in many plasma systems, for example, in solar wind and proto-stellar plasmas. This means that synergies with space and astrophysics are possible. Moreover, we are able to explore environmental applications of plasmas, such as water purification, plasma sterilisation, or plasma medicine.

What is the central aim of the upgrades?

We will build a new modular structure at the plasma edge to create an exhaust chamber of variable closure using different length baffles. With this we will systematically investigate and possibly optimise the magnetic configurations for the plasma edge, addressing the crucial problem of heat and particle exhausts. We are also exploring the potential use of high temperature superconductors for the necessary additional divertor coils in order to demonstrate a potential key technology for future tokamaks. Furthermore, a second 1 MW neutral beam heating system with high-energy capabilities will be installed, enabling us to study fundamental physics issues for burning plasma regimes, namely plasma rotation and fast ions.

How will the recent upgrades serve the European fusion roadmap?

TCV is characterised by the most extreme plasma shaping capability worldwide, the highest microwave power concentration in the plasma, and the largest degree of flexibility in its heating and control schemes. EUROfusion will use these advantages on behalf of ITER, focussing on exhaust, heating and control techniques in increasingly reactor relevant conditions. This will contribute to three Missions of the European fusion roadmap: Plasma Operation, Heat Exhaust and DEMO.

What does it mean you welcoming so many European fusion scientists at the Swiss Plasma Center?

I am looking forward to hosting many first class European researchers who will bring ideas, enthusiasm, knowledge and expertise to our Center. And who will, in turn, discover a state-of-the-art national lab at École Poly technique Fédérale de Lausanne, one of the most dynamic universities in the heart of Europe.

For me, it really means that the Swiss Plasma Center is fully integrated in the European fusion programme, and shares the long term vision of the European fusion roadmap. The Swiss people voted against the European freedom of movement. In this delicate moment, the renaming of our Center underlines how essential integration is, for both sides. Switzerland has become an important partner in science for Europe and the world, thanks to it being open for international exchanges. By working with the EU programme, we should – and I’m sure we will – find a way to circumvent the political difficulties and to continue such progression. There is no way back.

Fusion, the MST campaigns and the presence of so many colleagues from the other fusion labs provide a very concrete example of the fact that coordinated exchanges at this level constitute the most effective way to foster excellence and focus in research.