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Electrical & Computer Engineering Research

ECE HSX lab - student in red shirt with #BadgerEngineering on back working on HSX

Plasma science and fusion energy

Plasmas are a “fourth” state of matter, consisting of highly ionized gases, often at high temperatures, and make up most of the universe. ECE research in this area focuses on studying the science and applications of plasmas in areas ranging from materials processing and semiconductor technology to biotechnology and fusion energy. The confinement and heating of plasmas is a key step in providing virtually limitless energy through the process of nuclear fusion. Toward achieving that goal, the ECE department has developed a unique plasma confinement device, the Helically Symmetric Experiment (HSX). The HSX was completed under funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and is a promising concept for designing a future fusion reactor. The new field of plasma medicine is an outgrowth of UW-Madison’s more than 50 year history of strong, cross-disciplinary plasma programs. Applications for this area of research at UW-Madison include treating cancer and generating free radicals that have specific chemical and therapeutic properties.


Research labs and facilities

HSX – Helically Symmetric eXperiment

Red motors from trains lined up to power HSX

The future of power lies within UW-ECE

Located within the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is the only device in the world that has a magnetic field structure which has been termed Quasi-Helically Symmetric (QHS). A fusion research experiment funded by the US Department of Energy, and known globally as HSX, the Helically Symmetric eXperiment is a stellarator optimized for plasma physics research including the investigation of transport, turbulence, and confinement in a quasi-helically symmetric magnetic field.

In the the HSX generator room (left photo), 18 1,000 horsepower motor generators provide the electricity needed to power the HSX electromagnets (15 megawatts). These units take energy from the power line for several minutes, storing it in the inertia of flywheels, and then discharge this rapidly into the HSX electromagnets. HSX is housed in just one of the many, truly amazing labs within our department.

To learn more about HSX and its research opportunities, visit the HSX website.