Lauren Garrison

Fusing Material and Plasma Science

By Stacy Kish on August 4, 2010

Lauren Garrison with her MITE-E experiment.

Fellow: Lauren Garrison
Hometown: Charleston, Ill.
Undergrad: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Graduate school: University of Wisconsin
Keywords: Department of Energy, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Office of Science, Graduate Fellow program, Fusion, Material Science

Growing up in a small town in Illinois, Lauren Garrison was exposed to nature on a farm and from her parents, who both have advanced degrees in biology. But Garrison is forging her own path by melding together her two interests – plasma physics and materials science.

Garrison is determining the best material to be applied as the ‘first wall’ on a fusion reactor. “This is literally the material that would be in direct contact with the plasma,” she explains. Garrison’s work does not address plasma dynamics or fusion science directly. “Many other brilliant people are tackling how fusion can be used an energy source,” she begins.  But her work is an important and practical component to fusion’s future. “If we hope to have fusion reactors in the future, we need to develop a material that can house this energy source” she said.

Garrison, a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin and a DOE Office of Science Graduate Fellow, is studying the properties of tungsten. Her work begins by bombarding samples of tungsten about the size of a dime with helium ions at a specified high temperature. She then examines the samples using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to examine the changes to the surface structure as well as the amount of material sputtered off the surface. “If tungsten or an alloy of tungsten is going to be the first wall in a fusion reactor, then it has to withstand some pretty rigorous conditions,” explains Garrison. This work aims to inform the materials choices for projects such as the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor).

Garrison concludes, “I think this fellowship is an incredible opportunity. It will expose me to other bright people and their work, as well as be a fantastic introduction to the national labs.” Garrison’s graduate fellowship is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Stacy Kish is a Science Writer with the Office of Science.