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

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

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 (CEA). This master-2 program started, at Fall 2020, and takes over the national Master program “Sciences of fusion” who existed as a nation-scale program until Fall 2015 and then the Master program “Grands instruments/Large facilities” operated since 2015

For the 2022-2023 academic year, the students will originate as well from the Erasmus Mundus Consortium Lascala (Large scale Accelerators and lasers), granted by European Commission in Summer 2020 and joining three European universities University La Sapienza (Italy), University of Szeged (Hungaria), University of Lund (Sweden) and University Paris-Saclay (coordinator).

The master’s program GI-PLATO and the plasmas

Plasmas are 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 master program GI-PLATO and its educational plan

The GI-PLATO Master’s program aims at training high-level scientists in plasma physics and in the physics of the associated large instruments: accelerators, high power lasers, laser-generated plasmas, radiation sources, tokamaks, for research, engineering, integration and project management in relation to major research programs in particle, radiation and plasma physics. Some major scientific facilities are located on the plateau of Saclay plateau, such as the Synchrotron SOLEIL, the laser APOLLON and other high power lasers, the accelerators at IRFU (Institute for Research on the Fundamental Laws of the Universe) in Saclay and the IJClab (Irene Joliot Curie Laboratory) in Orsay, as well as major national and European facilities that rely on collaborations with local researchers (CERN, ITER, LMJ, GANIL).

Through the richness of the propes curriculum, the teaching methods used, and the partnerships involved, it constitutes a unique multidisciplinary training program in the physics of extreme electromagnetic conditions. Upstream of these major research programs, the modeling of the phenomena implemented with theoretical and simulation aspects; then the design of experiments, the measurement and associated diagnostics of relevant quantities, sometimes transient and of extreme values unusual within standard conditions on earth. Downstream, the interpretation with the comparison model – experimental results. Moreover, the design, construction, operation and management of large research infrastructures require engineers/researchers with multidisciplinary skills, capable of mastering the engineering, technology and physics as well as being able to dialogue and serve their users. Hence the presence of courses devoted to the high technologies implemented in the laboratories, such as accelerator systems, magnetism, vacuum, cryogenics, power sources within the optical or radio frequency range (lasers and gyrotrons), thermics, instrumentation and detection. The 60 credits of training (ECTS – European Credit Transfer System) are made up in equal parts of common core courses during the fall, specialization courses during the winter period and a 5-month internship in the spring-summer.

In keeping with the spirit of the Paris-Saclay University foundation, this program is open to students from universities and Ecoles Normales Supérieures as well as to students from engineer schools. Academics will be able to complete their training in physics and acquire experimental and instrumental skills. Symmetrically, engineering students interested in physics research will be able to complete their engineer training by deepening their knowledge of fundamental physics and to have access to the major scientific facilities available in the Paris-Saclay area as well as at the national and European levels.

To this end, they will benefit from substantial experimental work sessions (about 100 hours per student) carried out directly at the major facilities located within the Paris-Saclay area. These include the Synchrotron SOLEIL, the proton therapy center at Orsay, the high power lasers of the LULI, LOA, LASERIX, and IOGS laboratories, and the PHIL (IJCLab) and IPHI (IRFU) devices. In addition to this concrete discovery of the major scientific equipments, there will be visits to the European laboratories CERN, LMJ and ITER.

Particular emphasis will be placed on the managerial aspects of managing large projects and facilities: a specific course will be devoted to project management, safety standards for construction and operation, and user reception, for example.

Finally, the 5-6-month internship, compatible with the format of an engineer school end-of-study internship, and carried out at a large research facility or at a partner industrial company, completes this training. Some students will then be able to undertake a doctorate while others will go directly to project management or maintenance positions in large facilities as research engineers in public or private organizations, or in private companies.
The courses will be given by engineers, researchers and teacher-researchers who are recognized specialists in their field and actors in large research facilities.

Aware of the close links between the techniques used in fusion and for accelerators, the Master’s program GI-PLATO has the teaching goal to train versatile people with a wall-balanced teaching, as proposed by the Grandes Ecoles of the Plateau of Saclay, tackling fundamental physics and applied physics, physics and engineering, and aiming at giving thorough skills on the whole spectrum of activities all interconnected as represented below. The training is focussed on students who plan to be either research physicists or physics engineers, or future theoretician familiar with the methods for controlling experiments, and conversely, to train specialized physicists who are familiar with instrumentation and the stakes of their measurements. Bringing together Universities and Grandes Ecoles and the INSTN institute of CEA, a national organization strongly involved by its original DNA in the major programs discussed above and the associated major research infrastructures, this master’s program is led by teachers with doctoral training in physics and/or engineering, via a double Grande Ecole-University curriculum, with various statuses, researchers from universities, schools, or national organizations and, of course, to ensure the legitimacy of their teaching at the Master’s level, engaged on a day-to-day basis in these thematics.

The plasmas and the Large research facilities

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.

To create and control a plasma, 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.

Access to such a facility is possible through a program committee which prioritize proposed research projects. The design, the construction, the operation and the  management of such facilities require teams of engineers/researchers with multidisciplinary skills and expertise in engineering, technology and physics so that they can interact and devote their time to the users.

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), … The French Ministry of Research provides another overview of research infrastructures for research in France.

These large instruments artificially create plasmas of terrestrial interest, whether for energy, for imaging under penetrating radiation, or for inducing subatomic reactions, but also of more fundamental interest in outer space contexts, in particular stars. The beams circulating in accelerators at relativistic energies (TeV at CERN for example) allow projects in astroparticles domain with its own dynamics and its own programs on the origin of the universe which give rise to other master-2 formations. Tokamak plasmas are plasmas that represent problems of magnetic field lines that can open and reconnect like in the sun. The plasmas created by intense laser pulses make it possible to recreate the conditions of a star core or of a supernova explosion, simulating star behaviors evolving over thousands of years at the nanosecond scale. Plasma jets, hydrogenated planetary cores, plasma jets, ion acceleration by non-collisional shock are all situations that couple artificial plasmas of large research infrastructures and natural plasmas. The latter also have their own program, their own instruments, and their space missions, which are the responsibility of other master-2 courses.

Tokamak West (Cadarache). CEA credit

LMJ laser – experiment chamber (Bordeaux). CEA credit

Heavy ion accelerator (GANIL-Caen). GANIL credit