The development of a new clean energy source has the potential to revolutionize our world. The Swiss Plasma Center at EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) is trying to do just that: Using intense magnetic fields to confine hydrogen at temperatures up to 100 million degrees, scientists aim to create the conditions for fusion reactions to occur, such as in the stars, thus releasing a huge amount of clean energy—and solving the world’s energy problems in the process.

As part of the EUROfusion program, the Swiss Plasma Center is involved in the development of the ITER, the world’s largest scientific experiment under construction, to prove the feasibility of large-scale fusion reactions and pave the way for DEMO, the demonstration fusion reactor. If it succeeds, fusion could solve the world’s energy problems without generating any greenhouse gas or any long-term radioactive waste. The physical simulations that run on these experiments are an essential part of this process.

My job as director of operations for Scientific IT and Applications Support at EPFL is to provide High Performance Computing (HPC) resources to scientific projects like this one. Paolo Ricci, a professor at the Swiss Plasma Center, explains that “the field of fusion power entails not just building massive experiments such as ITER that are at the forefront of technology, but also performing cutting-edge theoretical research to better understand, interpret and predict physical phenomena. These predictions are based on large-scale simulations that require the world’s most powerful computers. Researchers need operational support to perform such calculations." Starting on July 1, EPFL will host a EUROfusion’s Advanced Computing Hub, that will support Europe in the development of the software to carry out the simulation for fusion in Europe, and I will direct its operations.

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EPFL’s Swiss Plasma Center aims to simulate fusion on Google Cloud
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