A Glass of Seawater!

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A light, informative, inspiring podcast all about the field of fusion energy research as seen through the eyes of PhD students from the Fusion CDT! Refresh your knowledge with our first four ‘introductory’ episodes, wet your whistle on the second spotlight set or quench your thirst listening to our chats about the questions and answers (and where they come from) of fusion energy and plasma physics.


Our first set (after introducing a few of us in our pilot recording!) offers a whistle-stop tour of nuclear fusion and relates that to the world of fusion energy; the big projects, the research strands, other uses of our work and how it’s all going anyway.

Don’t worry if it feels like a rush of headlines just now – we’ll be coming back to everything mentioned and much more as future topics in episodes to cover as many aspects of and ideas in fusion energy and plasma physics as we can think of!

The next 5 start to focus the mind, presenting a series of spotlights on fusion energy research themes. We look in particular at the work of the Fusion Centre for Doctoral Training and our key national lab partners.

These taken together give you the background, the rest are conversations in no particular order about the questions raised in the first few episodes and many more besides!

S1E1 – Genesis

This glass is brimming with introductions. To us, to our work-home and our research. Something about a bear fighting a gorilla marks our first distraction!

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S1E2 – Fusion?

Into this glass we poured everything we know about nuclear physics – the processes and demands of nuclear fusion in nature. Barely enough for a meniscus, so we did some reading to top it up. Then we talked about the sun and the destruction of our galaxy. We’re ‘glass half full’ people deep down.

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S1E3 – Knowledge is Power

We stirred into this glass all the extra bits of garnish that make nuclear physics knowledge useful! We get strict about criteria and chat about the bottom line(s) for harnessing the energy. How are we going to boil our seawater? Tea tastes better from a glass anyway I’m told.

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S1E4 – More Knowledge is More Power

Ok this one’s a tall glass so we’re continuing where we left off talking about the serious side of working with nuclear things. How we’re going to meet the criteria we were talking, including shortcuts. We close these intros with a number of ‘promising’ tangents to tease future episodes for you!

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Our launch party (coinciding with British Science Week 2018) included this episode recorded in front of a live public audience. We discuss 30 years of fusion progress – the things we’ve learned, the hiccoughs, the tangents and whether ‘why is it 30 years away?’ is a good question. Join the crowd!

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S2E1 – Talk-o-mak

We’re back! New glass, same seawater. A neat trick if you think about it. We’re kicking off with the favourite glass – favourite to win that is. This episode is a spotlight on magnetic confinement fusion. It’s the route to fusion farthest along and often involves tokamaks (which we focus on for simplicity… for now!)

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S2E2 – Now for Something Completely Laser

This time our glass is positively effervescent – filled with High Energy Density Physics. To Will’s delight, we finally recorded an episode on laser fusion. In this episode we give an overview of Inertial Confinement Fusion with help from one of our fabulous academics: Dr Kate Lancaster.

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S2E3 – Blood, Sweat and Materials Science

Never mind the seawater. Today it’s all about the glass and its materials. What happens in the challenging environments of a fusion reactor? Does the glass even exist yet? And maybe there’s some other material questions to be answered…

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S2E4 – 99 Percent of Nearly Everything

The last glass in our set: what can we do with plasma besides fusion energy? The answers will include fundamental physics, manufacturing, medicine and space tech… and we’re just getting started. What better teaser to keep listening as we start our focus episodes?!

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S3E1 – The Basics of high power lasers

Newcomers Chris and Sarah join Bhavin and Will to talk about lasers and the technology that goes into them. Also why lasers are so important and a brief look into some of their many applications.

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S3E2 – Nobel Prize: CPA explained

This time Will, Charlie, Kate and new-comer Chris M have gathered to talk about this year’s Nobel Prize Winner: Chirped Pulse Amplification. We break down exactly what this technological breakthrough was and why it was so important. Then we look to the future to consider what might be the next big step in high power laser science.

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S3E3 – A Glass of Seawater?

If you’ve been wondering why would we call ourselves a glass of seawater, you’re in for a treat. Today Bhavin, Tom and Michail discuss how much fuel for the fusion reaction can be taken from a glass of seawater. And how much energy that could produce. The answer may surprise you.

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S3E4 – Jim Al-Khalili SciComm Special

For our anniversary episode we sat down with Prof Jim Al-Khalili! We talked about science communication (scicomm) with him and Dr Lancaster – their motivation, experiences and how to talk about complex research topics like fusion energy. Every bit as good as Radio 4 ‘s The Life Scientific!

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S3E5 – Plasma Thrusters for Space

How can we use plasma jets for propulsion? Scott’s been working on using fusion fuel as rocket technology for cubesats (satellites). We talk about Hall effect and photon thrusters too. Plasma fusion rocket science, it’s not exactly rocket science is it?

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S3 E6 – A Day in the PhD Life

Most of us have an impression of what student life is like but maybe not that of a PhD student. This episode we have Sam, Helen, Tiantian and Emma to shed some light on the secret life of a Physics PhD student, their experiences and what they’ve learnt along the way. We chat about the love/hate relationship with research and the scary potential of life away from academia!

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S3 E7 Fusion Energy: Nuclear Waste Not, Want Not?

Nuclear energy expertise from fusion and fission combines in this episode to talk about the nuclear waste from fusion reactor designs. Where does it come from? How do we avoid making any? How do we manage the stockpile? We discuss how this key selling point for fusion energy informs our research – if the Chernobyl mini-series has you worried, let us explain how waste is dealt with!

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