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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

Kinetic theory of flows, radial electric fields, and impurities, including the pedestal region in diverted tokamak plasmas; and flows and electric fields in stellarators.


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, stellarator, mirror, bumpy torus, dipole, and inertial confinement. His more recent re­search interests are transport and impurity behavior in the pedestal of diverted tokamak plasmas, momentum transport in the core and pedestal of tokamaks, and transport in optimized stellarators.

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 inertial confinement.

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. 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 was 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 visits thereafter he performed tokamak and mirror research at Culham Laboratory in England. He served as an Associate Editor of Physics of Fluids from 1984-1986, was on the Editorial Board of Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion from 2009-2014, and was Program Chair of the 1998 International Sherwood Theory Meeting. He joined the Editorial Board of the Journal of Plasma Physics in 2015.


After spending fall 1992 and spring 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 Theory Head and Assistant Director at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center. At the PSFC he has occasionally taught in the Nuclear Science and Engineering and Physics Departments, he continues to collaborate with Culham Laboratory and Oxford University scientists, and he supervises graduate students from Chalmers University, Sweden, as well as MIT. He became a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1986, received an honorary Doctorate of Technology in 2011 from Chalmers University of Technology, and was a Visiting Research Fellow of Merton College at Oxford University from January to March of 2014


Selected Publications

"A current driven electromagnetic mode in sheared and toroidal configurations", I. Pusztai, P. J. Catto, F. I. Parra and M. Barnes, Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 56, 035011 (2014).


"Conservation of energy and magnetic moment in neoclassical calculations for optimized stellarators", M. Landreman and P. J. Catto, Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 55, 095017 (2013).


"Kinetic effects on a tokamak pedestal ion flow, ion heat transport, and bootstrap current", P. J. Catto, F. I. Parra, G. Kagan, J. B. Parker, I. Pusztai, M. Landreman, Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 55, 045009 (2013).  


"Intrinsic rotation with gyrokinetic models", F. I. Parra, M. Barnes, I. Calvo and P. J. Catto, Phys. Plasmas 19, 056116 (2012).


"Omnigenity as generalized quasisymmetry", M. Landreman and P. J. Catto, Phys. Plasmas 19, 056103 (2012).

"Sources of intrinsic rotation in the low flow ordering", F. I. Parra, M. Barnes and P. J. Catto, Nuclear Fusion 51,113001 (2011).


"Neoclassical flow, current, and electric field in a quasi-isodynamic stellarator", M. Landreman and P. J. Catto, Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 53, 035016 (2011).


"Enhancement of the bootstrap current in a tokamak pedestal", G. Kagan and P. J. Catto, Phys. Rev. Lett. 105, 045002 (2010).


"Turbulent transport of toroidal angular momentum in low flow gyrokinetics", F. I. Parra and P. J. Catto, Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 52, 045004 and 059801 (2010).


"Limitations of gyrokinetics on transport time scales", F. I. Parra and P. J. Catto, Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 50, 065014 (2008).




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