Doctoral Award of the European Physical Society to Michael Faitsch

IPP postdoc receives award for outstanding doctoral thesis

March 28, 2019

IPP postdoc Dr. Michael Faitsch is one of the four prizewinners who received the PhD Research Award 2019 from the Plasma Physics Division of the European Physical Society (EPS) for the outstanding quality of their doctoral theses.

Image of the thermal load of the divertor in the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device, measured by infrared thermography on the left, mathematically modeled on the right. The good agreement shows that the model can well describe the physical conditions in the present case.

Michael Faitsch, born 22 May 1990 in Deggenhausertal, received his doctorate in 2018 with a thesis on "Divertor Power Load Studies at ASDEX Upgrade and TCV" from Ludwig Maximilian's University of Munich. At the two fusion devices, ASDEX Upgrade at IPP in Garching and TCV at the Swiss Plasma Centre in Lausanne, he investigated how the heat load on the plasma vessel caused by the hot plasma can be influenced. In particular, he dealt with the so-called divertor: specially equipped collector plates on the vessel wall to which particles from the plasma edge are magnetically diverted. If this impact zone is too narrow, the local overload in large-scale ITER-class devices could seriously damage the plasma vessel. This makes it all the more important to understand the underlying processes in order to ensure reliable prediction of the load expected in future facilities such as ITER or a demonstration power plant.

For this purpose, Michael Faitsch observed the thermal load in the divertor of ASDEX Upgrade by means of infrared thermography. He then used the measurement results and an analysis software he developed to investigate the effect of magnetic control coils. With their help, perturbing instabilities at the plasma edge, so-called ELMs (edge-localised modes), are to be reduced to the appropriate level compatible with the wall. Michael Faitsch was able to measure fundamental relationships between the thermal load and various settings of the control coils, this being of great importance for planning future devices. On research leave to Switzerland, he also investigated the influence of the geometry of the plasma cross-section on the divertor load at the TCV tokamak.

"The approach used in the work combines theoretical competence and rigor", according to the EPS laudation, "with concrete modelling of realistic situations and interesting technical proposals". The conclusion that an external magnetic perturbation by means of control coils can significantly change the heat flow to the divertor plates is of great practical and theoretical importance.

The award, endowed with one thousand euros, is to be presented in early July at this year's EPS Conference on Plasma Physics in Milan, Italy, where each of the four winners will also give a lecture.

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