Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

NRE/MP Seminar

Nuclear & Radiological Engineering and Medical Physics Programs


Technology for Magnetic Fusion and a bit of good scenery around the US


Dr. Richard Nygren


Sandia National Laboratories


Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 11:00:00 AM


Boggs Building, Room 3-47


Dr. Said Abdel-Khalik


FUSION IS HARSH. The components near the plasma in a magnetic fusion reactor receive heat and particle loads equivalent to those edge of the sun. Others produce tritium (fuel, from the transmutation of lithium) to run the reactor and harvest heat from neutrons that carry 80% of the power from the fusion reaction. All must survive in an extremely harsh environment. Solving the related issues in heat transfer, liquid metals flowing in magnetic fields, neutron damage to materials, interactions of plasma and materials, etc. requires collaborative effort from many disciplines in science and engineering. The research involves some fascinating science. And the integration of the technology within the constraints of a fusion reactor is a challenging. These are the topics of this seminar. Ongoing research in magnetic fusion at Sandia includes work on plasma-surface interactions, analyses of electromagnetic loads from rapid movement of the plasma and high heat flux testing. Dr. Nygren will also provide information on student programs and will be available after the presentation for discussions with students and staff. He has worked at several national laboratories, UCLA and the US Dept. of Energy. Interspersed in his presentation are photos of places he has enjoyed hiking near these institutions.


Dr. Nygren performs research on actively-cooled heat sinks for fusion. These components surround the plasma and face a very challenging environment with high heat and particle loads. His resume includes over 100 journal publications, national and international advisory groups, and volunteer efforts in science education. Recent presentations include “Making Tungsten Work” (14th Int. Conf. on Fusion Reactor Materials), “Divertor Development for DEMO” ( 9th Int. Symp. on Fusion Nuclear Technology) and “Science in Fusion Technology” (Int. Conf. on Emerging Nuclear Energy Systems). Dr. Nygren earned a BS from MIT and PhD in Materials Science from Northwestern. Sandia’s Fusion Technology Department leads the US effort to design and build plasma-facing components for ITER, the first fusion engineering reactor and largest international scientific collaboration. Dr. Nygren contributed to the early stages of ITER’s design and developed plasma facing components for Tore Supra and TEXTOR, fusion experiments respectively in France and Germany, as well as a liquid lithium divertor for the National Spherical Torus Experiment at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. In science education outreach, he serves on New Mexico’s Advisory Council on Math and Science Education, science education partnerships, and the New Mexico Academy of Science (and is a past president). His early research at Westinghouse-Hanford was on radiation damage to materials for fast breeder reactors and fusion materials. He spent two years at Oak Ridge National Lab, when the Fusion Engineering Design Center was formed to design a US engineering fusion reactor. In 1981, he joined Argonne National Lab and directed research on high heat flux components, tritium breeding technology, liquid metal magneto-hydrodynamics and transient electromagnetic loading. In 1985-86, he was special assistant to the director of the US DOE Magnetic Fusion Program. He then performed research on the interaction of graphite with plasma at the UCLA and, in 1989, left UCLA, married and moved to Albuquerque and joined Sandia National Labs.