Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics

Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics

The researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics want to fetch the Sun's fire to Earth. A future fusion power plant is to produce energy by fusing nuclei of the two heavy hydrogen isotopes, viz. deuterium and tritium, to form helium. The fusion fire is brought to ignition in a plasma with a temperature of over 100 million degrees Celsius, that is confined within a magnetic field preventing contact with the vessel wall. The ITER international test reactor is to demonstrate that the reaction yields more energy than is required to attain the high ignition temperature. Research scientists are investigating devices of various types and the processes occurring in them. In operation at Garching is the ASDEX Upgrade tokamak, at the Greifswald branch Wendelstein 7-X, the world’s largest fusion device of the stellarator type. Experiment and theory at these sites are concerned with investigating how the fusion conditions can be realised with the greatest efficiency. Last but not least, IPP is also studying the socio-economic conditions under which nuclear fusion could contribute to the energy mix of the future.


Boltzmannstr. 2
85748 Garching
Phone: +49 89 3299-01
Fax: +49 89 3299-2200

PhD opportunities

This institute has no International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS).

There is always the possibility to do a PhD. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Stellarator Scenario Development more
Department Stellerator Edge and Divertor Physics more
Department Tokamak Edge and Divertor Physics more
Department Stellarator Optimisation more
Department Tokamak Scenario Development more
Science without computers? Unthinkable, nowadays! Yet over half a century ago, that was commonplace. Then, in the early 1950s, mathematician and physicist Heinz Billing entered the scene - and introduced the Max Planck Society to electronic computing. It all started with the "Göttingen 1."
To consolidate the scientific basis for a fusion reactor – this was Sibylle Günter’s objective when she took up her post as Scientific Director of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics. But ever since the German government renounced nuclear fission, nuclear fusion has also had a difficult time politically.
Project Controller
Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, Garching November 07, 2017

Experiments with the manipulator system DIM-II in the divertor of ASDEX Upgrade

2017 Herrmann, Albrecht; Krieger, Karl
Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics
By means of the so-called divertor – specially equipped and cooled plates at the bottom of the plasma vessel to which particles are deflected from the edge of the plasma – a part of the generated fusion energy is dissipated in a later fusion power plant. With the Divertor Manipulator DIM-II, this concept is prepared at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device. With DIM-II, parts of the divertor can be examined and replaced without opening the plasma vessel. This allows for investigation of plasma-material interactions at the divertor plates as well as for concept studies for actively cooled plates. more

Structure-preserving numerics in plasma physics

2016 Kraus, Michael
Plasma Physics
Many properties of a plasma that are not, or not in detail, experimentally accessible can be systematically investigated only in computer simulations. Many codes, however, use numerical methods that insufficiently take into account important properties of mathematical equations. This results in important phenomena not being reproduced in simulations. So-called structure-preserving integration methods could be the remedy. These combine ideas from numerics, physics, and geometry and allow more realistic simulations than classical methods. more

Development of bolometers for ITER

2015 Meister, Hans
Plasma Physics
Special requirements have to be met in developing diagnostics for the ITER international experimental reactor, which is to produce an ignited, energy-yielding plasma. The bolometers – radiation detectors for measuring light ranging from radiant heat to X-rays, emerging from the ITER plasma – are being developed at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Garching. more
Tokamaks can provide excellent confinement and high kinetic pressure of fusion plasmas due to an axisymmetric magnetic field. However, strong pressure gradients at the plasma edge cause repetitive instabilities leading to expulsion of hot plasma towards the surrounding wall. This instability is studied in detail at the tokamak ASDEX Upgrade. It has been found that the fast power loss from the plasma and the associated high peak power load onto the wall can be reduced by a small dedicated non-axisymmetric magnetic perturbation without compromising the favourable confinement properties.

In the high temperature plasmas of tokamak fusion devices, the radial transport is produced by micro-turbulence, at ion and electron Larmor radius scales. An essential element of the physical understanding of the turbulent transport is the identification of the relationship between theoretically predicted turbulent transport mechanisms and the macroscopically observed behaviors of the plasma profiles. The main results of this theoretical and experimental research performed at the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik are presented. more

Brittle material becomes pseudo-ductile: tungsten fibre reinforced tungsten

2013 Riesch, Johann; You, Jeong-Ha; Höschen, Till; Linsmeier, Christian
Plasma Physics
A new class of tungsten materials – tungsten fibre reinforced tungsten – is developed and investigated in the division „Plasma Edge and Wall“ of the MPI für Plasmaphysik. Tungsten fibres are combined with a tungsten matrix. Extrinsic mechanisms of energy dissipation in combination with a high ductility of the fibres lead to a strong toughness enhancement. A new method of chemical vapour infiltration for tungsten allows for the first time the fabrication of such material. The toughening mechanisms are shown by means of advanced experimental techniques such as x-ray microtomography. more

ELISE – Negative hydrogen ions for the ITER neutral beam injection systems

2012 Fantz, Ursel; Franzen, Peter; Heinemann, Bernd
Plasma Physics
The Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Garching makes with the worldwide largest ion source test facility for negative hydrogen ions ELISE a major contribution for the success of the international fusion experiment ITER in Cadarache. After two years of construction ELISE will start operation in June 2012. The aim is to demonstrate the source parameters required for the heating and long pulse operation of the fusion plasma. The ion source is aimed to deliver a one hour negative deuterium ion beam of 20 A from a source with half the size of that for the ITER source. more
The usually applied scheme of electron heating in fusion plasmas by millimeter waves is limited regarding the plasma density. At the ASDEX Upgrade tokamak, which is operated by Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik in Garching, new schemes have been developed that allow efficient electron heating at higher density. These schemes are not only important to extend the operational space of ASDEX Upgrade but could also be used in the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator that is currently being built by the Greifswald branch of Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik. more

New materials for extreme environments

2010 Linsmeier, Christian
Material Sciences Plasma Physics
New materials capable of withstanding very high loads are being developed by the ExtreMat (New Materials for Extreme Environments) research programme, an integrated project of the European Union. A European research and industrial consortium headed by Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics at Garching is working on the development of innovative high-grade materials. These are to open up new areas of application in nuclear fusion, nuclear fission, electronics and space technology. more

Tokamak operation with a tungsten wall

2009 Kallenbach, Arne
Quantum Physics
In order to qualify tungsten as surface material for a future fusion reactor, the plasma facing carbon tiles of ASDEX Upgrade were coated with tungsten. The first experimental campaign – without wall conditioning by deposition of boron – demonstrated a favourable behaviour of tungsten with regard to hydrogen retention. After boronization, the reduced impurity content caused low intrinsic radiation. Injection of nitrogen re-established a radiative level required to protect the divertor from thermal overload, resulting also in an (unexpected) improvement of the energy confinement. more
We describe experiments on photoionisation of a free cluster jet with synchrotron radiation. Electron spectroscopy allows to map changes of the electronic structure upon condensation of monomers to clusters. Energy remaining in the cluster after photoionization can be released via emission of a secondary electron, which proceeds by an ultrafast energy transfer between neighbouring atoms or molecules within the cluster. more

Physics of fast particles in fusion plasmas

2008 Guenter, Sibylle; Lauber, Philipp; Strumberger, Erika
Plasma Physics
The efficiency of a future fusion power plant depends on the confinement of the fusion products, i.e. the helium nuclei, in the magnetic configuration. Therefore, the investigation of the transport properties of this super-thermal particle population is of great scientific interest and will be one of main research areas at the international fusion experiment ITER. Especially large-scale internal and external magnetic perturbations and instabilities driven by the energetic particles can contribute critically to this transport. more

Chemical erosion and amorphous hydrocarbon layers on the walls of ITER

2007 Fussmann, Gerd; Bohmeyer, Werner
Material Sciences Plasma Physics
Various materials – tungsten, beryllium, and fibre-reinforced graphites – exhibiting different advantages and disadvantages are under discussion as wall materials for the plasma vessel of fusion devices, particularly ITER. The properties of graphite were investigated in detail. One disadvantage here is the deposition of amorphous hydrocarbon layers on the vessel walls. This, however, can be prevented. more

A new operation scenario for a fusion power plant

2007 Zohm, Hartmut
Plasma Physics
An operation scenario suitable for a fusion power plant should feature high thermal insulation of the hot plasma in conjunction with good stability properties. In order to allow the two quantities to be optimised simultaneously, one has to understand the underlying mechanisms involved, i. e. the nonlinear interaction of turbulent particle and energy transport with large-scale instabilities. One example is the “Improved H-mode“ discovered in ASDEX Upgrade. more

Carbon and plasma wall interaction

2006 Jacob, Wolfgang
Material Sciences Plasma Physics
In the Materials Science Department of IPP processes of the plasma surface interaction in fusion devices are investigated. In this article, experiments in the device MAJESTIX are reported. This device is devoted to the investigation of microscopic processes relevant to the interaction of hydrogen, hydrocarbon radicals, and ions with carbon surfaces. These processes are of particular importance in plasma surface interaction in fusion devices. more

Development of a high-frequency ion source for ITER

2005 Speth, Eckehart
Quantum Physics
IPP’s Technology Division in Garching is conducting a development programme for the international test reactor ITER – a new ion source for plasma heating by neutral particle beams. In contrast to former devices for ITER negative ion beams are needed. Production, acceleration, and neutralisation of negative hydrogen ions, which in contrast to positive ions are very fragile objects, is accompanied by a series of challenging physics and technology problems. In addition, high particle energies and steady state is requested. The results up to now nevertheless indicate, that IPP’s ion source is well on the way to be chosen as a candidate for ITER. more

Data analysis via Bayesian probability theory

2004 Dose, Volker
Mathematics Plasma Physics
Data analysis employing Bayesian probability theory constitutes one of the IPP contributions to the inter-institutional collaboration "Centre for Interdisciplinary Plasma Science" (IPP/MPE). The goal of this project is the optimal solution of ill conditioned or even underdetermined inverse problems. From the spectrum of activities we present examples from the field of plasma physics, astronomy and climatology. more

Tungsten as plasma facing material in the ASDEX Upgrade tokamak

2004 Neu, Rudolf
Material Sciences Plasma Physics
Whether, or to what degree tungsten (W) can be used as plasma facing material is a key question for all future fusion devices, having in mind the complex chemistry carbon exhibits in the presence of hydrogen isotopes. Since 1999 the fusion experiment ASDEX Upgrade pursues the progressive increase of W plasma facing components (PFCs). Meanwhile 65 per cent of all PFCs are equipped with W coated tiles. The incremental approach in the transition to a W dominated device provides the opportunity to explore the influence of different W-components and to identify major carbon sources. New spectroscopic tools have been developed which allow detection of W concentrations below 10-6. Poloidally resolved measurements of the W and C influx reveal that the W erosion is dominated by light impurities. At the same time a fast redistribution of C onto the tungsten surfaces is observed. The W concentrations remained well below 10-5 in the reference scenario for a future reactor. The central impurity accumulation could be efficiently reduced by central heating and repetitive injection of cryogenic deuterium pellets. The results obtained so far open up optimistic prospects for the use of W in a reactor and future studies in ASDEX Upgrade will enlighten details of the operation of a carbon free device. more