Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Eric D. Held


Eric D. Held


Jeong-Young Ji


Joseph V. Koebbe


Andrew Spencer


Oscar Varela


The Sun in our solar system and stars are capable of generating enormous amounts of energy. The process by which these gaseous, celestial bodies are able to produce such large amounts of energy is called thermonuclear fusion. Fusion happens when particles collide with one another at energy levels high enough to overcome the Coulomb force and then release vast amounts of energy. Plasma, the fourth state of matter, is the natural state of stars. Plasma is an ionized gas that consists of negatively and positively charged particles. Stars, which have immense mass, can confine the plasma through their gravity to sustain the fusion process. Laboratory plasma cannot be confined by gravity. Magnetic fields can be used instead. For the past 70 years, scientists and engineers have been working on harnessing energy from magnetized thermonuclear fusion. Current research contributes to creating a device capable of supporting fusion reactions and producing a clean sustainable energy source.

Sustaining a burning or ignited plasma through fusion reactions is not an easy task. These complex systems can result in many instabilities that limit plasma temperatures and densities and prevent significant thermonuclear fusion from taking place. An important piece of the physics puzzle that either stabilizes or destabilizes the plasma is the interaction of energetic particles with the bulk plasma. This is called the wave-particle interaction or energetic particle interaction with magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) modes. Another example of this would be the solar wind from the sun (energetic particles) interacting with Earth’s magnetosphere (bulk plasma).

This thesis focuses on an approach to more accurately and efficiently resolve the energetic particle motions using a computer code. This thesis will also compare two very different approaches to wave-plasma interaction problem by looking at the grow-rate of an instability that has been used to benchmark several computer codes used by the magnetic fusion energy community.



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