Professor Fonck is an experimental physicist with research interests in plasma and fusion science, atomic processes in high-temperature plasmas, and diagnostic instrumentation. His main research focus is on the properties of magnetically confined plasmas for thermonuclear fusion energy applications.
Fonck is pursuing the experimental study of a family of plasma magnetic confinement devices called low-aspect ratio tori. This very-nearly-spherical toroidal geometry allows the study of very high plasma pressures in a tokamak-like geometry. Plasma pressure limits under magnetic confinement are of interest as a basic physics topic, and have practical implications for the economic attractiveness of future fusion reactors. These studies started at UW-Madison with the small MEDUSA experiment, and are now concentrated in the Pegasus Toroidal Experiment program. The Pegasus project employs unique high-stress magnet technology to access plasmas with near-unity aspect ratio, which in turn allows ready access to relatively high pressure plasma conditions. Main areas of interest in the Pegasus program presently include: the use of plasma current injectors to initiate high temperature plasmas without the need for a strong solenoidal induction magnet; current and pressure stability limits in this low-aspect regime; and unique diagnostic measurements for these low-field and relatively high-density plasma conditions.
He has also developed a variety of diagnostic techniques for measuring the particle and energy content and the stability of very-high-temperature plasmas. Current applications focus on studies of density and energy microturbulence in hot plasmas to determine the basic source of anomalous plasma particle and energy losses. This includes studies of spatial and temporal correlations between fluctuating modes, plus nonlinear coupling between turbulent modes in the plasma. Most of these turbulence experiments are performed on national tokamak experimental facilities, such as the DIII-D tokamak device. The diagnostic hardware is usually developed and tested at UW-Madison, then moved to these facilities. Real-time interactions with the experiments and operation of the diagnostics are often pursued though internet-based remote connections between UW and the host site. The current focus in this program is on the development of novel interferometric spectrometers to detect small-scale fluctuations in the local electric and magnetic fields.
Professor Fonck attended the University of Wisconsin where he received his B.A. with honors in physics in 1973 and a PhD in physics in 1978. He began as a Research Staff Physicist at Princeton University Physics Laboratory in 1978-1989. While at Princeton, he was appointed both Deputy Head of the PBX and PBX-M Tokamak program and Head of the Spectroscopy Group Section for the TFTR Tokamak project from 1984-1989. In 1989, he left Princeton to become the Associate Professor for Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He became a Professor in Engineering Physics in 1992 and appointed a Steenbock Professor in Physical Science at UW-Madison in 2005.