Modeling Electron Cyclotron Heating plasmas with SOLPS-ITER

  • // Belgium
  • University/Institute Name KU Leuven
  • University/Institute Name Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • Attendance Type On Campus
  • Position Duration4 years
  • Position Funding Type
  • Application deadlineExpired

Position Details (PhD Program)

(ref. BAP-2022-834)

Last modification : Monday, November 21, 2022

The PhD researcher will be part of the Thermal and Fluids Engineering (TFE) research group of prof. Martine Baelmans, in close collaboration with Dr. Tom Wauters from the ITER International Organization located in Cadarache, France. The TFE group is embedded in the Mechanical Engineering Department of KU Leuven, Europe’s most innovative university [Reuters]. The TFE group focuses on modeling and optimization in plasma physics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer. In the field of plasma edge modeling, the group is renowned as one of the main developers of the SOLPS-ITER code, used worldwide for the interpretation of exhaust scenarios on existing fusion experiments, and for the design of future fusion reactors. The group pioneered the use of adjoint-based optimization for divertor design in this research domain. Recent work focussed on plasma edge simulations up to the vessel wall, SOLPS-ITER code modernization, speed-up and convergence studies, development of hybrid fluid-kinetic neutral models for reactor studies, development of self-consistent anomalous transport models and model calibration for plasma edge codes.

Nuclear fusion has the potential to provide the world’s energy needs with safe, sustainable and virtually limitless energy. The experimental reactor ITER, currently being built in France, is the key experimental step between today’s fusion research machines and tomorrow’s fusion power plants. In this context, startup of the reactor and wall conditioning will be carried out through Electron Cyclotron Heating (ECH) plasmas. This project aims at providing accurate predictions of such plasmas for ITER, by developing new numerical modeling approaches. In particular, the project addresses important open issues for electron cyclotron wall conditioning such as wave absorption efficiency, the role of poloidal field maps on the achievable plasma parameters, and the particle fluxes to the plasma facing components.

To tackle these issues, the SOLPS-ITER code will be extended to model the ECH power deposition, and to accurately simulate the low-density, partially ionized plasmas envisaged, especially in regions close to the vessel walls. Experimental results from present tokamaks will allow model enhancements and benchmarking of SOLPS-ITER predictions. This work will not only unlock a new reliable simulation framework for ECH plasmas based on the SOLPS-ITER code, but indirectly also contribute substantially to the further development and testing of SOLPS-ITER itself and the supporting pre-and post-processing tools.


You are a highly motivated, enthusiastic and communicative researcher, and you are strongly interested in the development of numerical simulation methods. Moreover, you are a team player that enjoys collaborating with people within the research group, the project, and beyond, and have

  • A master’s degree in Physics, Applied Mathematics, or in Engineering, with a background in mechanical or mathematical engineering, or related field, from a reputable institute, with at least distinction,
  • A background in numerical modeling, fluid mechanics, heat and mass transfer,
  • The qualities to carry out independent research, demonstrated e.g., by the grades obtained on your M. Sc. thesis,
  • An excellent command of the English language, both in spoken and written form,
  • A critical mindset.

Additional research/educational experience in any of the following topics is considered a strong advantage:

  • Plasma physics, transport phenomena at continuum and kinetic level,
  • Coding in languages such as Fortran and Matlab,
  • Familiarity with SOLPS(-ITER).
  • A doctoral scholarship of four years and, if successful, a PhD in Engineering Science
  • Benefits such as health insurance, access to university sports facilities, etc.
  • The opportunity to be active in an exciting and international research environment, engage in research collaborations and participate at international conferences, close collaboration with ITER International Organization
  • A full-time employment for four years, with an intermediate evaluation after one year
  • An excellent doctoral training at the Arenberg Doctoral School in an international environment at a top European university. This will allow you to gain the skills required to successfully complete your PhD, as well as develop yourself as an independent researcher. Moreover, opportunities are provided to acquire deeper knowledge in subjects related to the topic by participating in trainings, summer schools, or lecture series in- and outside of KU Leuven
  • A flexible working culture with opportunity to up to 40% remote working

It is expected that the successful candidate will spend some part of the graduate study working with experts at the ITER site (Cadarache, France). The successful candidate is expected to start as early as possible (upon agreement with Prof. Baelmans and Dr. Wauters).


Applicants should express their interest by sending an email to prof. Martine Baelmans via the dedicated email address [email protected]. The email should *strictly* contain the following information in the text body, in bullets:


-Master degree (Master specification, University + Country, Year obtained, Promotor)

-Master thesis title

-A one paragraph (up to half an A4 page) statement explaining the motivation for applying for this vacancy at KU Leuven.

-Please also attach an academic CV to your email

Do not directly apply in the online system as referred to below. This will be only necessary for selected candidates in a second stage. Note that if you do not receive a response to your email within three weeks, this means you have not been selected for the second stage. Decision: as soon as a suitable candidate applies (so do not wait ’till the closing date to apply). For more information please contact prof. Martine Baelmans at [email protected].

You can apply for this job no later than March 31, 2023 via the online application tool
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at [email protected].

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