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New fellow appointed at Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics

Professor Frank Jenko appointed Scientific Fellow

December 14, 2016

Professor Dr. Frank Jenko is to join Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) at Garching in January 2017 as Scientific Fellow and head of the Tokamak Theory division. He and his team are to contribute “virtual fusion experiments” on the world’s largest supercomputers.


Professor Dr. Frank Jenko Zoom Image
Professor Dr. Frank Jenko

IPP’s objective is a power plant deriving energy from fusion of atomic nuclei, just like the sun. The fuel is a hydrogen plasma confined in magnetic fields and heated to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees. This is being experimentally investigated in the large ASDEX Upgrade tokamak device at Garching. In parallel, theoretician Jenko is to develop a “virtual tokamak”, i.e. make possible the complete modelling of future fusion devices by computer. “We shall interlink to an overall picture the individual aspects of the plasma’s behaviour investigated hitherto”, states Frank Jenko. Such a simulation program must be capable of describing the interaction between many different processes, fast and slow, large- and small-scaled.

This huge task is counting on the supercomputers of the next generation, the exascale class. These will be capable of handling quintillions of computational operations per second, this being ten times as fast as today’s most powerful devices. In preparation for the new computers, Frank Jenko will, for example, make use of one of the 15 projects of the US Exascale Initiative, which he has proposed together with Princeton’s fusion institute: Two hitherto separately operated computer programs are to be combined and fitted to the architecture of future computers – Jenko’s version, describing the turbulent processes in the hot plasma core, and Princeton’s, covering the cold edge.

Simulation of plasma turbulence with the GENE computer code (Gyrokinetic Electromagnetic Numerical Experiment) Zoom Image
Simulation of plasma turbulence with the GENE computer code (Gyrokinetic Electromagnetic Numerical Experiment)

Frank Jenko’s work on turbulence, for which he was awarded a Starting Grant of the European Research Council in 2011, takes him beyond the realm of plasma physics into fundamental questions. In general terms, these are nonlinear processes in complex systems which can lead to self-organisation: “What I want here is to build bridges to other research areas, e.g. astrophysics and biophysics.”

Frank Jenko, born 1968 in Landshut, studied physics at the Technical University of Munich. On taking his PhD in 1998 he joined IPP as research scientist. After visiting terms in the USA he took his lectureship degree at the University of Ulm in 2005 and took charge of an IPP group of young scientists working on simulation of plasma turbulence. At the same time, he headed the European Group on High Performance Computing. In 2014 he joined the University of California in Los Angeles as Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Director of the Plasma Science and Technology Institute. Professor Jenko is now returning to Garching: As of January 2017 he will be a Scientific Fellow and Division Head at IPP.

Isabella Milch

 
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