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Plasma Science and Fusion Center

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Peter Catto

Assistant Director PSFC, Physics Research Group Leader, Theory & Computation

peter catto Email:
Phone: (617) 253-5825
Address: Room NW16-250
Related links: Physics Research, Fusion Theory & Computation

Research Interests

Research interests are plasma and neutral flows, electric fields, and edge physics issues in diverted tokamak plasmas, and dipole stability.


Wentworth Institute, Boston, Mass.:  A.S. (1962) Mechanical Engineering

Massachusetts Institute of Technology:  B.S. and M.S. (1967) Electrical Engineering

Yale University:  Ph.D. (1972) Engineering and Applied Science

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Catto is a theoretical plasma physicist with research experience in tokamak, mirror, and bumpy torus fusion devices and laser ignited fusion. His dissertation was on the solar wind interaction with the moon. His more recent research interests are plasma and neutral flows, electric fields, and edge physics issues in diverted tokamak plasmas, and dipole stability.

While a member of the School of Natural Sciences at The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from 1971 to 1973 Dr. Catto's primary interest was in the role of micro-instabilities in tokamaks. During the summers of 1972 and 1973 he was involved in mirror investigations as a Research Associate in the Department of Astro-Geophysics at the University of Colorado. 

In 1973 Dr. Catto became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Sciences and a member of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, both at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. While at Rochester he continued his tokamak stability investigations while advising students and performing research on laser ignited fusion. He spent the summer of 1974 as a mirror physicist in the Controlled Thermonuclear Research group at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and in 1975 became a consultant on tokamak stability to the Fusion Energy Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory where he spent the summer of 1976. 

In May of 1978 he joined Science Applications Inc.'s Boulder branch of the Laboratory for Applied Plasma Studies as a Staff Scientist after having consulted there during the summer of 1977. Soon after joining SAI he became actively involved in bumpy torus transport investigations, while maintaining his interests in tokamak and mirror stability. In 1979 he became a Senior Staff Scientist in SAI's newly formed division, the Plasma Research Institute in Boulder, and subsequently expanded his research interests to include equilib­rium, transport, and stability studies in tokamak, tandem mirror, and bumpy tori fusion devices. While working at SAI he was a consultant at Livermore. In November of 1987 Dr. Catto left Science Applications International Corporation to continue his research as a Senior Scientist at Lodestar Research Corporation in Boulder. After joining Lodestar Dr. Catto became an advisor to the Office of External Affairs at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, where he had lectured at the Spring College on Plasma Physics in 1985 and 1989, and a CNR Visiting Professor at the University of Trieste during the spring of 1989.

During the summers of 1983, 1987, and 1991 and for shorter winter visits in 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998 he performed tokamak and mirror confinement, stability, heating, and divertor research at Culham Laboratory in the England. He served as an Associate Editor of The Physics of Fluids during 1984-1986 and Program Chair of the 1998 International Sherwood Theory Meeting. He became a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1986.

After spending the fall of 1992 and spring of 1993 at the MIT Plasma Fusion Center, and a summer visit to the Institute for Fusion Studies and Fusion Research Center at the University of Texas in Austin, Dr. Catto returned to MIT on a permanent basis in the fall of 1993. In the fall of 2000 he became head of theory and assistant director at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center. At MIT he performs tokamak edge and core plasma physics research at the PSFC, occasionally teaches in the Nuclear Engineering and Physics Departments, continues to collaborate with Culham Laboratory and the University of Texas scientists, and supervises graduate students from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, as well as MIT.

Selected Publications

A Magnetic Dipole Equilibrium Solution at Finite Plasma Pressure", S. I. Krasheninnikov, P. J. Catto and R. D. Hazeltine, Phys. Rev. Lett. 82, 2689 (1999).

"Ballooning Stability of a Point Dipole Equilibrium", by A. N. Simakov, P. J. Catto, S. I. Krasheninnikov and J. J. Ramos, Phys. Plasmas 7, 2526 (2000).

"Kinetic Stability of Electrostatic Plasma Modes in a Dipolar Magnetic Field", A. N. Simakov, P. J. Catto and R. J. Hastie, Phys. Plasmas 8, 4414 (2001).

"Effect of Neutral Atoms on Tokamak Edge Plasmas", T. Füløp, P. J. Catto and P. Helander, Phys. Plasmas 8, 5214 (2001).

"Effect of Poloidal Density Variation of Neutral Atoms on the Tokamak Edge", T. Füløp, P. Helander and P. J. Catto, Phys. Rev. Letts 89, 225003 (2002).

"Resistive Stability of Magnetic Dipole and Other Axisymmetric Closed Field Line Configurations", A. N. Simakov, P. J. Catto, J. J. Ramos and R. J. Hastie, Phys. Plasmas 9, 4985 (2002).

"Effects of Poloidal Variation of Neutral Density on Pfirsch-Schlüter Transport Near the Tokamak Edge", A. N. Simakov and P. J. Catto, Phys. Plasmas 10, 398 (2003).

"Controlling Edge Plasma Rotation Through Poloidally Localized Refueling", P. Helander, T. Füløp and P. J. Catto, Phys. Plasmas 10, 4396 (2003).

"Drift-Ordered Fluid Equations for Field-Aligned Modes in Low- Collisional Plasma with Equilibrium Pressure Pedestals", A. N. Simakov and P. J. Catto, Phys. Plasmas 10, 4744 (2003).

"A Drift Ordered Short Mean Free Path Description for Magnetized Plasma Allowing Strong Spatial Anisotropy", P. J. Catto and A. N. Simakov, Phys. Plasmas 11, 90 (2004).