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3D Render fusion reactor nuclear fusion, tokamak inside heated plasma, toroidal shape, clean energy

Researchers in the Physics Department at Durham University will receive funding for the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Fusion Power from the UK’s biggest-ever investment in engineering and physical sciences doctoral skills.

The UK leads the world in fusion technology evidenced by the site selection and investment in constructing a fusion tokamak as part of the ambitious STEP fusion energy programme, underpinning an industry expected to be worth billions to the UK economy [1].

Professor Roddy Vann from the York Plasma Institute and leader of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Fusion Power said: “The new CDT builds on our existing success and international reputation to become the global beacon for training the next generation of fusion leaders. They will solve these technical cross-disciplinary challenges, moving fusion forward faster at a rate of 20 scientists and engineers per year. This supply of the best people will energise the global fusion industry and enable international fusion power plant innovation & development.” 

Durham University’s Professor Damian Hampshire and Professor Marco Cecconello, both in the Department of Physics, are part of the CDT led from York University that will train more than 100 doctoral students over the next five years. The CDT brings together colleagues at the Universities of York, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford and Sheffield, as well as commercial partners including the UK Atomic Energy Authority, Tokamak Energy, Oxford Sigma, First Light Fusion and Kyoto Fusioneering.

Professors Hampshire and Cecconello bring world-class expertise in superconducting magnets and fusion plasma diagnostics. These research areas are essential parts of the road-map to clean nuclear fusion power. “High-field superconducting magnets are the enabling technology for magnetically confined fusion. We need to understand and improve high-field superconducting materials under operational conditions, to make fusion superconducting magnets commercial. We also need to understand the physical processes occurring in the core of fusion plasmas and sustain and control the fusion burn processes to deliver energy to the grid” they said. “Fusion plasma diagnostics are a key element in the capability of modeling, predicting and verifying the performance of present and future fusion reactors. In the CDT, we will develop the academic and industrial base for the new generation of fusion physicists and engineers.”

The centres for doctoral training are funded through a £500M UK Research and Innovation and Ministry of Defence investment, plus a further £590M from universities and business partners. The investment of more than £1B will create 65 CDTs in the UK, funding research furthering net zero, AI, defence and security, healthcare and quantum technologies.

Professor Charlotte Deane, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, said: “The Centres for Doctoral Training [...] will help to prepare the next generation of researchers, specialists and industry experts across a wide range of sectors and industries. The high calibre of both the new centres and applicants is a testament to the abundance of research excellence across the UK, and EPSRC’s role as part of UKRI is to invest in this excellence to advance knowledge and deliver a sustainable, resilient and prosperous nation.”