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Plasma Science and Fusion Center

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


bruce lipschultz

Senior Scientist , Alcator Project

bruce lipschultz Email:
Phone: (617) 253-8636
Address: Room NW17-103
Related links: Alcator Project

Research Interests

Dr. Lipschultz’s primary emphasis is on the plasma physics of low temperature (0.5-100 eV), moderate density (0.001 - 3 x 1021 m-3) plasmas that exist at the edge of fusion-related devices.  This includes studies of pedestal physics (velocities, electric fields, ionization), as well as scrapeoff layer and divertor physics including ion & neutral transport, the atomic physics of the local processes (e.g. ion recombination and line radiation), ion-surface interactions, fuel retention and material studies


Ph.D. Physics, University of Wisconsin Madison 1979

BS Physics, U. Maryland 1975

BS Mathematics, U. Maryland 1975

Biographical Sketch

While Dr. Lipschultz’s doctoral thesis led to the first experimental verification of the MHD vertical instability (now commonly called a VDE which leads to disruptions) he quickly moved on to the physics of the plasma at the edge of tokamaks upon reaching MIT. His Alcator C tokamak work included the discovery and initial model for the ‘MARFE’ phenomenon which is a common feature of tokamaks, playing a role in fueling and density limits. The MARFE is a unique combination of atomic and classical transport physics. This radiation-condensation instability is also found in solar prominences.

His participation in the Alcator DCT design (1984) led him to develop the vertical plate divertor design. This design has been incorporated into virtually every operating divertor tokamak, as well as into the designs for next step devices such as ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor). This advance simplified the geometry of divertors by combining the divertor plate and entrance baffle. Physics benefits include: enhanced recycling of ions as neutrals near the plate lowering electron temperatures and impurity sources; minimization of impurity neutral access to the hot core plasma (neutral impurities leave the surface directed away from the core plasma).

Dr. Lipschultz has coordinated the divertor and edge plasma research at Alcator C-Mod from its inception. His work as part of this effort included the determination of the effect of geometry on divertor detachment (physics as well as density threshold), the quantification of ion loss through 3-body recombination in the divertor, and the characterization of molybdenum erosion and transport at plasma-impacted surfaces along with their effect on the hot core plasma.

Dr. Lipschultz’ experiments and analysis of experiments related to scrapeoff layer radial transport (at C-Mod, JET and DIII-D) have shown that convection dominates in the far SOL and the convective velocity is independent of plasma and machine parameters – a robust result which has important implications for plasma-main chamber interaction. Most recently he has driven experiments at C-Mod to understand fuel retention in surfaces during discharges which he has shown to be much higher than expected.

Dr. Lipschultz is chair the ITPA (International Tokamak Physics Activity) Divertor/edge plasma group.  This group coordinates international research on a number of issues ranging from materials to materials interactions to the physics of plasma and neutral transport in the edge and divertor plasmas. Dr. Lipschultz has also served on the program committee for the Plasma Surface Interactions Conference, the primary venue for researchers in plasma-surface interactions and low-temperature plasmas. He has also served on various Program Advisory committees in the US and abroad.

Selected Publications

B. Lipschultz, D.G. Whyte, J. Irby, B. LaBombard and G.M. Wright, ‘Hydrogenic retention with high-Z plasma facing surfaces in Alcator C-Mod’, Nucl. Fusion 49 (2009) 045009.

B. Lipschultz, X. Bonnin, G. Counsell et al, ‘Plasma–surface interaction, scrape-off layer and divertor physics: implications for ITER’, Nucl. Fusion 47 (2007) 1189–1205.

B. Lipschultz, Y. Lin, M.L. Reinke et al., ‘Operation of Alcator C-Mod with high-Z plasma facing components and implications’, Phys. Plasma 13 (2006) 056117 .

B. Lipschultz, B. LaBombard, D. Whyte, ‘Comparison of particle transport in the scrape-off layer plasmas of Alcator C-Mod and DIII-D’, Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 47 (2005) 1559–1578.

B. Lipschultz, B. LaBombard, C.S. Pitcher & R. Boivin, ‘Investigation of the origin of neutrals in the main chamber of Alcator C-Mod’, Plasma Phys. & Controlled Fusion (2002) 733.

B. Lipschultz, D.A. Pappas, B. LaBombard et al., ‘A study of molybdenum influxes and transport in Alcator C-Mod’, Nuclear Fusion 41 (2001) 585.

B. Lipschultz, J.L. Terry, C. Boswell et al., ‘The role of particle sinks and sources in Alcator C-Mod detached divertor discharges', Phys. Plasmas, 86 (1999) 1907.

B. Lipschultz, J.L. Terry, C. Boswell et al., 'Ultra-high densities and volume recombination inside the separatrix of the Alcator C-Mod tokamak', Phys. Rev. Letters, 81 (1998) 1007.

B.  Lipschultz, I.  Hutchinson, B.  LaBombard & A.  Wan, ‘Electric Probes in Plasmas’, J.  Vac.  Sci.  Technology A, 4 (1986) 1810.

B. Lipschultz, B. LaBombard, H.L. Manning et al., ‘Impurity Sources during lower hybrid heating on Alcator’, Nucl., Fusion 26 (1986) 1463.

B. Lipschultz, B. LaBombard, E.S. Marmar et al., `MARFE:  An Edge Plasma Phenomenon,' Nucl. Fusion 24 (1984) 977.