With its remotely operated tokamak Golem Czech Technical University in Prague makes experimental fusion possible for students that do not have direct access to a fusion machine.

“For many, fusion is far, far away”

Czech scientist Milan Ripa once said to underline that the only fusion machines in entire eastern Europe are located in Prague. Worldwide, around 50 tokamak experiments are up and running and not all students fascinated by fusion energy happen to live near one. But now they can enrol in the GOMTRAIC project and – within an international team of fellow students and under the guidance of a scientist – operate a tokamak from home.

GOMTRAIC stands for GOlem reMote TRAIning Course and is offered by the Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering, at the Czech Technical University in Prague. The faculty’s small tokamak Golem can be fully operated remotely via the internet. It has been used for many face-to-face experimental fusion summer schools over the past years, and now the faculty is using this experience to pioneer a remote training course. GOMTRAIC aims at Masters and PhD students with an interest in experimental tokamak physics. All they need is a recommendation from their tutor and internet access. Within three months, they learn how to conduct tokamak experiments and how to operate the diagnostic systems that measure the plasma.

Global participation

The first course started in March 2012 and was advertised through personal contacts and through FUSENET, a European fusion education network. Almost fifty participants registered from all over the world. They were split into nine groups and each student was assigned to one task according to his or her preference and was guided by an experienced supervisor. A remote kick-off meeting introduced the participants to technical aspects of the measurements. An internet-based GOLEM simulator programme helped them learn about the operation of the machine. Although the group never met in person, they communicated via email and videoconference to jointly design the experiments. They met in the virtual control room to perform the plasma measurements, evaluate the data and present a report on their experimental results. The performed discharges were displayed on the website from where the students could download their experimental data.

Just the beginning

GOMTRAIC is the first experimental fusion summer school with purely remote participation. This time it brought together students from 16 countries in Europe, Asia and America. The GOLEM tokamak is simple enough to be manageable for projects of this scale, so students can get an excellent insight into the basic principles of fusion machines. The next course is planned for 2013.