Master’s programme Large facilities – Plasmas, Lasers, Accelerators, Tokamaks (GI-PLATO)

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The educational partnership

The master-2 program Large facilities – Plasmas lasers accelerators tokamaks is a one-year program to complete the two-year academic master’s program in physics of the University Paris-Saclay (UPSaclay) and the Institute polytechnique de Paris (IPP). It is jointly operated by several Universities and engineer schools, located in Paris area and accredited by the French Ministery for high education and research: University Paris-Saclay (called University Paris-Sud till 2019), Ecole Polytechnique (X),
Institut d’optique-Graduate school (IOGS), Ecole normale supérieure de Paris-Saclay (ENS-PS), Ecole nationale supérieure des techniques avancées (ENSTA), Ecole Centrale-Supelec and Institut National des Sciences et Techniques Nucléaires (INSTN), engineer school of the French commision for atomic energy and renewable energies. This master-2 program will start, at Fall 2020, and takes over the Master-2 “Grands instruments/Large facilities” operated since 2015 and the Master-2 “Sciences of fusion” who existed as a nation-scale program until Fall 2015.

The master’s program GI-PLATO

Plasmas are not only ubiquitous in the universe, except on earth where electrons and nuclei are bound within atoms, which are the basic block to build more and more complex structures, namely molecules, macromolecular chains, proteins, ADN with the associated life program. The free electrons and ions give rise to specific features for various application domains, depending on their density that is the distance between particles and their temprature that is the kinetic energy they have to oppose to the intra-particle interaction potential energy. On this background joined to the purpose and applications of the studies, various communities of scientists have aggregated around specific plasmas, and communicate via their own conferences, seminars and specialized vernacular. This spectrum of communities can be seen through the reference table of a  a peer-reviewed journal, highly regarded on the planet scale, namely Physics of Plasmas journal edited by the American Institute of Physics (AIP). It reports on original research in all areas of experimental and theoretical plasma physics, whatever they are natural or artificially created in a lab.  Among this long list displayed herebelow, the Master’s program PLATO proposed herein covers a majority of thematics displayed with the red bubbles. Only the green items are not covered specifically by lessons or seminars of the program. One bubble with a mixed green coulor is partially taught, because of the large interface between the laser-driven plasmas and the natural plasmas, such as supernovae, stars like the sun, jets, … .
The diversity of the plasmas and the technics to rule them is so large that one year would not be enough to teach at the master’s level all the skills required to their understanding, including theoretical, experimental, instrumentatal protocols and projects. To avoid to provide limited and consequently superficial knowledge on all kinds of plasmas, this program is devoted to a restricted but very large area of plasmas to delve deep into them and give higly skilled students the opportunity to choose after graduation their physicist profile: theroretician, experimentalist, instrumentalist, via researcher of project officier permanent positions. The design, the construction, the operation and the management of such facilities require engineers / researchers teams with multi-disciplinary skills, an expertise in engineering, technology and physics such as to be able to dialog and to dedicate their time to users. To meet the competences associated to large programs research, a full second-year of master program called “Large facilitie – Plasmas lasers accelerators tokamaks” is proposed, a multidisciplinary program, composed with 6 month of teaching traditional entailing 350 hours of lectures / tutorials / hands-on and a 6-month long mentored research internship. The training features many practical works carried out in research labs located within the Paris-Saclay University, in the valley of Orsay and on the plateau of Saclay.

The Large facility

To carry out their research activities, the academic and industrial labs use generally their own facilities and engineers/researchers. Nevertheless, some research programs require investments (facilities but also skills) so large that these laboratories must share them. Large equipment of research is a pooled means, for communities of researchers, gathering conditions of volumes, time, states of the matter, and energy so different from usual conditions (the famous so-called standard temperature and pressure conditions) to make it too much expensive for one research lab. Access to such a facility is possible through a program committee which prioritize proposed research projects. With slightly different names (infrastructure, facility, equipment, instrument ; always described as large, even very large), a large research facility is the heart of national or international networks:
“very large research infrastructures” (TGIR) at the French ministry for research, a program coined « Very large instruments » (TGI) with the objective and performance contract between the French government and the High commission for nuclear energy and renewable energy, a European program “European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures” (ESFRI). The Web site dedicated to the latter will give you the complete panorama of all the projects ESFRI whose significant portion requests the competences taught in the master degree-2 describes below: Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI-Europe of theEast), Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research(Hamburg-Germany), System of production ofRadioactive Ions online of 2nd generation(Caen-France), …


Plasmas and technologies

The curriculum is aimed at educating plasma physicists with skills encompassing experimentation, simulation and analytical modeling on physics domains associated to the the large facilities where electromagnetism play a dominant role: particle accelerators ,and particle beams which propagate therein, lasers and laser-created plasmas, tokamaks and magnetized plasmas. This multidisciplinary program, bridging engineering and research, can fit student engineers intending to move towards research and university students open to engineering jobs.
This cross-training program will offer the students opportunities to integrate either a public research institution (after a PhD) or a leading-edge research and development group in a private company.
These three types of instruments contribute to create and control a plasma, i.e. an ionized medium made up of free charged particle. Many techniques are put forward within this framework:
  • To inject a plasma: with cryogenic devices of deuterium mixture and tritium for fusion or many injectors separating ions and electrons to be used as sources of particles within the accelerators;
  • To confine plasmas: with materials of high mechanical resistance under high heat flux or irradiation and/or with intense magnetic fields carried out with superconductive coils kept at very low temperature;
  • To heat plasmas or to accelerate particles: with lasers featuring a high peak power in excess of one terawatt or generators of radio frequencies;
  • To diagnose plasmas, beams and various underlying phenomena: with various instruments collecting with a high temporal resolution (down to the femtoseconde), space and spectral (from 1 electronvolt up to 1 GeV) the radiations or the particles escaping from the plasma.

Gathering around the large installations dedicated to research

In order to provide to the students the skills required to take benefit of the great research programs and the large associated facilities, one month of the programme is organized near large installations with strong international visibility.
There courses, tutorials and hands-on sessions accompanied by visits are given to the students gathered with students of other classes:
  • Superconductive Tokamak Tore-Supra/West located at CEA/Cadarache near the future tokamak ITER with the students of the European master degree Erasmus Mundus Fusion-EP;
  • Lasers of power LMJ and Petal delivering nanosecond pulses and picosecond pulses located at CEA/Bordeaux with the students of themaster degree of physics of the university of Bordeaux;
  • Accélérators of the European Center of nuclear research (CERN) close to Geneva, of Paul Scherrer Institüt close to Zurich, the ESRF in Grenoble with students,doctorands coming from the universities andlaboratories dispersed on all Europe. Thisregrouping is coordinated by the Joint Universities Accelerator School (JUAS), in partnership with 16 universities European and sponsored by many research organizationsand companies of the sector of the accelerators.