The Potential of Fusion Energy: MIT Researchers to Lead Project Integrating AI Into Fusion Data
The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) has recently provided funding to a new project led by researchers at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) and four collaborating institutions. The project aims to integrate fusion data with AI-powered tools in order to accelerate the development of fusion energy as a clean and sustainable power source.
Improving Access to Fusion Data
The collaboration, headed by Cristina Rea, a research scientist at PSFC, plans to create a holistic fusion data platform that offers improved access to researchers, including underrepresented students. The project also aims to encourage diversity and participation in fusion and data science within academia and the workforce.
The data produced by fusion devices, such as MIT’s Alcator C-Mod, can be difficult to access and analyze due to various technical barriers. Furthermore, leveraging AI for data analysis and scientific discovery can be time-consuming due to the lack of organized and standardized data. By creating a data platform that follows the FAIR (Findable, Interoperable, Accessible, Reusable) principles and adheres to UNESCO’s Open Science recommendations, the project aims to overcome these barriers and unlock the potential of AI for accelerating fusion research.
Legacy of Collaboration and Inclusivity
The researchers plan to use MDSplusML, an upgraded version of MDSplus software, developed by PSFC researchers in the 1980s, to build the platform’s databases. This open-source software is widely used by fusion research institutes to store and provide external access to fusion data. By continuing the legacy of open collaboration, the project aims to foster inclusivity and collaboration within the fusion community.
Promoting Diversity and Excellence in STEM
In addition to improving access to fusion data, the project also aims to address barriers to participation faced by women and disadvantaged groups. The researchers plan to organize a subsidized summer school focusing on fusion and machine learning at William and Mary for the next three years.
Rea emphasizes the importance of diversity in problem-solving, stating, “Diverse communities have more diverse ideas, and they allow faster problem-solving.” The collaboration’s work aligns with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s “AI for Fusion” Coordinated Research Project (CRP), which emphasizes community engagement and knowledge access to accelerate fusion research and development.
PSFC Director Dennis Whyte expresses his excitement about the project, stating that it will enable the extraction of critical data from experiments and apply new AI tools to advance fusion research.
Rea feels a sense of responsibility as a woman in STEM and is motivated to contribute to making fusion energy a reality. She believes that this project will not only benefit the fusion community but also showcase the leadership of women in STEM.