Creating the Sun in a box, is it possible?

Creating the Sun in a box, is it possible?
Me with my two cats, Maxwell and Galileo
Is ‘catching’ the Sun really possible? Or just a fantasy?

Yes, you’ve read it right, creating the Sun here on Earth is not a sci-fi fantasy but a never so close reality.
Why such a thing? Recreating here on Earth the fusion reactions that happen in the core of the Sun could change forever our worldwide need for renewable sources of energy.
Serveral project involving the world greatest countries are in development, like Iter, and the world’s scientific community is thriving around all the different aspects involved in what could be one of the greatest achievements of humanity.

How can we study such complex theories and experiments? Well, we need very powerful tools and here HPC (High Performance Computing) come into play. Between the different projects and partnerships PRACE (Patnership for Advanced Computing in Europe) gives its strong contribution, and the Summer of HPC programme is an example of this.

Summer of HPC is a PRACE programme in which late-stage undergraduate and master’s students participate in pairs on different projects, related to PRACE technical or industrial work, supported and mentored from several PRACE hosting sites, spending two months working on those projects and produce a report and video of their results.
One of this projects is the ‘Computational atomic-scale modelling of materials for fusion reactors‘ mentored and supported by BSC (Barcelona Supercomputing Center) Fusion group and is the one that I take part of. But who is talking? Let me introduce myself.

This is me, with the beautiful SoHPC 2021 T-shirt!

Hi, I’m Paolo Settembri, a 22 years old boy from Italy. I’m a student at the University of L’Aquila where I obtained a bachelor degree in Physics, and I’m currently attending at the first year of the master degree course in ‘Condensed Matter Physics:Nanotechnologies and Fundamentals’.
In my childhood I’ve been very curious and had a strong passion for Astrophysics, reading Stephen Hawking child books, so when I grew up I chose a ‘Liceo Scientifico’ for high school, which is a type of high school in Italy focused on Math,Physics and Science in general.
After graduation I joined the bachelor degree course in Physics and my passion switched from Astrophysics to Solid state physics. In my bachelor degree thesis I simulated a collision of a dark matter particle in a Sodium Iodide crystal at low temperatures.

It was the professor that mentored me during my thesis to notify me of the possibility of joining the SoHPC 2021. Searching through the projects I found the one perfect for me ‘Computational atomic-scale modelling of materials for fusion reactors’ and I decided to apply.
I was really sad and disappointed when no confirmation e-mail was arriving, even if only a few days were left before the final deadline; but then , maybe as I should have done previously, I checked the Spam inbox, and there it was, my confirmation letter, and it was sent to me days before.
I could not believe it, I almost didn’t make it in the program because I didn’t check the spam inbox, and in a few day I would have been discarded, luckly this did not happen!
I was a little scared of not having enough computational science knowledge to take part of the program but the training week really helped me, integrating my basic knowledge with high level informations; and now I look forward for the next weeks, in which I will start working on my project.

Schematics of the plasma inside the reactor (left), polycrystalline tungsten metal structure (right), a material of interest, and MareNostrum-4 supercomputer (background).

In the project me and another candidate will study, guided by the BSC Fusion group, materials used in fusion reactors, and using LAMMPS molecular dynamics simulations to investigate some of their properties. These materials can be used as protective layers in fusion reactors, but to do that they have to resist in really hard conditions, with temperatures of 108 °C inside the reactor.
Computer simulations are fundamental in cases where experimental data are not available or difficult to obtain like in this case, and the use of HPC technology will be key in obtaining larger and longer simulations.

I can’t wait to start working on this project, that could give a small contribution in what will possibly be one of the greatest achievements in human history, and I’m really thankful to PRACE and SoHPC organizers for this opportunity!

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