Nuno Loureiro named director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center | MIT News

Nuno Loureiro, professor of nuclear science, engineering, and physics, has been named the new director of the Center for Plasma Science and Fusion at MIT, effective May 1.

Loureiro directs one of MIT’s largest laboratories: more than 250 full-time researchers, staff and students work and study in seven buildings with 250,000 square feet of lab space. Loureiro, a theoretical physicist and fusion scientist, joined MIT as a faculty member in 2016 and was named deputy director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) in 2022. Loureiro succeeds Dennis White, Who resigned at the end of 2023 To return to teaching and research.

In his new role as Director, Loureiro says, “PSFC has an impressive tradition of discovery and leadership in plasma and fusion science, engineering, and technology. Taking on the role of Director of PSFC represents an exciting opportunity to shape the future of these fields. We have a world-class team, and it is a great honor to be chosen as its leader.” “

Loureiro’s own research ranges widely. It is recognized for enhancing understanding of multiple aspects of plasma behavior, especially turbulence and the physics underlying solar flares and other astronomical phenomena. In the field of fusion, his work enables the design of fusion devices that can control and harness plasma fusion energy more efficiently, bringing the dream of clean, near-limitless fusion power that much closer.

Plasma physics is key to the advancement of fusion science, a fact that Loureiro embraces and is relevant as he studies the direction of interdisciplinary research at PSFC. “But plasma physics is only one aspect of our focus. Building a scientific agenda that continues and expands on PSFC’s history of innovation in all aspects of fusion science and engineering is vital, and a key facet of this work is to facilitate our researchers’ efforts to achieve the breakthroughs necessary to bring fusion energy to fruition.”

As the climate crisis accelerates, fusion power continues to gain more appeal: it produces no carbon emissions, its fuel is plentiful, and dangerous “meltdowns” are impossible. The earlier nuclear fusion energy becomes commercially available, the greater its impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving global climate goals. While technical challenges remain, “PSFC is well-positioned to meet them, and continue to demonstrate leadership. “We are a mission-oriented laboratory, and our students and staff are incredibly passionate,” Loureiro comments.

Maria T says: Zuber, MIT Presidential Advisor: “As MIT continues to lead the way in bringing clean nuclear fusion energy to the grid, I have no doubt that Nonoo is the right person to take on this key role at this critical time.” for science and technology policy. “I look forward to the steady progress of plasma physics and fusion science at MIT under Nonno’s leadership.”

Over the past decade, there have been huge leaps forward in fusion energy, driven in part by innovations such as… High temperature superconducting magnet Developed at PSFC. Ensuring further progress: Loureiro believes that “the next few years will certainly be an exciting time for us, and for the merger as a whole. “It’s the dawn of a new era with plasma burning experiments,” he said — referring to the collaboration between PSFC and Commonwealth Fusion Systems, a startup that spun out of PSFC, to build SPARC, a fusion device scheduled to be operational in 2026. Producing a burning plasma that produces more energy than it consumes. “This will be a watershed moment,” Loureiro says.

He continues, “In addition, we have strong connections to inertial fusion experiments, including those at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and we look forward to expanding our research to include stellarators, another type of magnetic fusion device.” Over recent years, PSFC has increased significantly Collaboration with industrial partners such as Eni, IBM and others. Loureiro sees great value in this: “These collaborations are mutually beneficial: they allow us to grow our research portfolio while enhancing companies’ R&D efforts. They are very dynamic and exciting.”

Loureiro’s management begins at a time when the PSFC is launching major technology development projects such as LIBRA, a “blanket” of molten salt that can be wrapped around nuclear fusion vessels and performs double duty as an absorber of neutron energy and a generator of tritium (the fuel needed for fusion). Researchers at PSFC have also developed a way to test the durability of materials being considered for use in a fusion power plant environment, and are now creating an experiment that uses a powerful particle accelerator called a gyrotron to irradiate candidate materials.

Interest in nuclear fusion is at an all-time high; The demand for researchers and engineers, especially in the emerging business fusion industry, is reflected in the record number of graduate students studying at PSFC – more than 90 across seven MIT departments. Classes at PSFC are full, and Loureiro notices a palpable sense of excitement. “Students are our greatest strength,” Loureiro says. “They come here to do world-class research but also to grow as individuals, and I want to give them a great place to do that. Supporting these experiences and making sure they are as successful as possible is one of my top priorities.” Loureiro plans to continue teaching and advising students after starting his appointment.

MIT President Sally Kornbluth recently announced Climate project This is a clarion call for Loureiro: “It’s no exaggeration to say that MIT is the place you go to find solutions to humanity’s biggest problems.” “Fusion is a difficult problem, but it can be solved with determination and ingenuity – characteristics that define MIT. Fusion energy will change the course of human history. It is humbling and exciting to assume leadership of a research center that will play a major role in enabling this change.”

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