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New vision for plasma research to open in York

28 September 2012

A world-class interdisciplinary plasma research centre, designed to foster collaborations between industry and universities, will be officially opened at the University of York next week.

The York Plasma Institute (YPI), the result of a £6m collaboration between the University and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will be opened by the government’s chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington, on Monday, 1 October.

Part of the Department of Physics, the Institute represents a capital investment of £3.7m and provides facilities for research and training in fusion energy, low temperature plasmas for technological and biomedical applications, and laser-plasma interaction. The Institute brings together high temperature plasmas for fusion and laser-plasma interaction research with low temperature plasmas under one roof, enabling synergies between the disciplines to be exploited.

On Earth, plasmas are usually man-made. These span from relatively cool plasmas used in industry, such as low energy light bulbs, plasma displays or for biomedical applications, to those heated to ten times the temperature at the centre of the Sun, which are used in the quest for fusion energy.

If the scientific and technological challenges can be overcome, fusion offers the potential for an effectively limitless supply of safe, environmentally friendly energy. To address these challenges, University of York researchers collaborate closely with the national fusion programme at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire, as well as other international fusion laboratories.

York Plasma Institute Director, Professor Howard Wilson, said: “With the construction of the international fusion facility ITER, the largest international science project on Earth, fusion is entering an exciting new era. It takes fusion beyond a scientific study, requiring closer collaboration between scientists, engineers and industry to address the remaining scientific and technological questions and deliver energy to the grid. The philosophy of the York Plasma Institute embraces this collaborative approach: it is a really exciting time for us.”

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