Solar energy, which is the source of life on Earth, and the energy of stars glowing in the night sky both are born of nuclear fusion. If we can achieve on Earth the fusion energy that has been produced in space without pause since the Big Bang 13,700,000,000 years ago, the human race will gain never-ending energy. At the Department of Fusion Science, School of Physical Sciences, SOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies), education focusing on fusion energy science is conducted aiming at the cultivation of human resources in the fields of advanced science technologies in our country. Study in the Department of Fusion Science undertaken at the National Institute for Fusion Science (NIFS), which is in the National Institutes of Natural Sciences, Inter-University Research Institute Corporation. NIFS promotes leading-edge research in nuclear fusion science to realize a sun on Earth.
In order to achieve the use of fusion energy, plasma having a temperature higher than 120,000,000 degrees should be steadily maintained. At NIFS, using the world’s largest superconducting large-scale device, Large Helical Device (LHD), based upon an idea unique to Japan called the heliotron system, we are advancing greatly in this research through high-temperature plasma experiments using the magnetic field. The behavior of such high temperature plasmas is extremely complicated and draws our intellectual curiosity. In order to make clear the physics in those plasmas, we also promote research utilizing theory and simulation in parallel with the experiment. In addition, we are developing fusion engineering research that includes super-conducting technology and plasma heating devices for further technical enhancements. Moreover, we also devote much effort to academic research in fields across physics and engineering, including the engineering design of a future reactor and related studies such as material development and the engineering system.
The subjects of fusion research cover a broad range of academic research, and we can only realize the use of fusion energy by correlating them with each other and by integrating them as a whole. In the Department of Fusion Science, students are guided according to their interest under a supervisor conducting research at the highest level in the world. The advantage of the Department of Fusion Science is that students are guided by more than one leading scientist and they are trained to be internationally active researchers through discussions with foreign researchers and through opportunities to attend international conferences.
More than fifty years have passed since the development of fusion energy began. Now, the generation of fusion energy through ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is planned for 2027. However, there still remain issues to be solved and it will take at least thirty years to realize a fusion reactor.
Because the fuels deuterium and lithium are found in seawater in nearly inexhaustible amounts, there is no worry of their supply running out. Further, because the fusion reaction does not emit carbon dioxide, there is no strain placed upon the environment, and these fuels are excellent in terms of safety. Now we need the power of young generations. Let’s pursue realization of fusion energy, the dream of all humanity.