PhD on the topic of hybrid feedback control for nuclear fusion

Would you like to work in a scientific environment as a PhD student? And do you have background knowledge and familiarity with hybrid control? Then read on quickly!
De Zaale 20 Eindhoven
Theme Fusion Energy
Energy Systemts and Control
Kind of contract
Kind of function
PhD student
Working hours
0,8 - 1 FTE
Level of education
Level of experience
Vacancy id
Publication date
Closing date


The Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER) performs leading fundamental research on materials, processes, and systems for a global sustainable energy infrastructure. We work in close partnership with (inter)national academia and industry. Our user facilities are open to industry and university researchers. As an institute of the Dutch Research Council (NWO) DIFFER plays a key role in fundamental research for the energy transition.

We use a multidisciplinary approach applicable on two key areas, solar fuels for the conversion and storage of renewable energy and nuclear fusion – as a clean source of energy.

Differ is looking for a

PhD on the topic of hybrid feedback control for nuclear fusion

We aim to develop the hybrid control1 approach necessary to control density profiles2  together with the exhaust3, particularly with hydrogen ice pellets, to optimize the fusion reactions, ; hence the efficiency of future fusion reactors. This project combines of fusion research and advanced control engineering.

The PhD will work on development and interfacing the exhaust and core controllers. Both are currently (individually) being developed within DIFFER. The main idea of integrating exhaust controllers with core controllers is to increase the performance of the exhaust controllers because disturbances originating from the core on the exhaust can be mitigated using core control. In addition, as the exhaust controller is mainly a safety controller (to protect the wall), communicating a predicted violation of a safety constraint arising from density and fusion power fluctuations will allow the hybrid core controller to take (additional) action, assuring the overall safety. As part of the project, the PhD is expected to interact, prepare, and execute experiments on the ASDEX-Upgrade tokamak situated in Germany in close collaboration with the IPP Max Planck team.  The PhD/PD will be part of the Energy Systems & Control group at DIFFER currently involved in several tokamaks including STEP, MAST-U, TCV, AUG, and DIII-D and will be embedded in the Control Systems Technology group (group Heemels) at the Eindhoven University of Technology.

1.           Lunze, J. Fault diagnosis of discretely controlled continuous systems by means of discrete-event models. Discret. Event Dyn. Syst. 18, 181–210 (2008).

2.           Bosman, T., Van Berkel, M. & De Baar, M. R. Model-based electron density profile estimation and control, applied to ITER. J. Phys. Commun. available online, (2021).

3.           Koenders et al., Nuclear Fusion 63, 106007, (2023)

Position and requirements


  • Literature review and planning
  • Advance the modelling for the core fueling hybrid controller and couple it to an edge code.).
  • Modify the individual exhaust and core controllers to be used in experiments for the ASDEX-Upgrade tokamak.
  • Demonstrate in simulation, that the hybrid controllers show the desired stability and performance.
  • Implement and demonstrate the designed controllers on ASDEX-Upgrade in experiments
  • Build a stand-alone coupled MPC controller (e.g., based on the extended two-point model, DIV1D, or UEDGE) and analyze time delays using gas actuation only for the attenuation of core disturbances.
  • Include model predictive knowledge of the core system/controller into the divertor MPC detachment controller and demonstrate improvement.
  • Thesis writing

We ask:

As this project combines nuclear fusion research with control engineering, a solid background in both fields, preferably an MSc. in (fusion/plasma) physics and/or an MSc. in control engineering, is strongly recommended. Moreover, background knowledge and familiarity with hybrid control would be a strong point in your application.

Terms and conditions

This position is for 0,8 - 1 FTE, will be for a period of 4 years and is graded in pay scale 19. The position will be based at DIFFER (www.differ.nl) and the working location will be at TU Eindhoven. When fulfilling a position at DIFFER, you will have an employee status at NWO. You can participate in all the employee benefits NWO offers. We have a number of regulations that support employees in finding a good work-life balance. At DIFFER we believe that a workforce diverse in gender, age and cultural background is key to performing excellent research. We therefore strongly encourage everyone to apply. More information on working at NWO can be found at the NWO website (https://www.nwo-i.nl/en/working-at-nwo-i/jobsatnwoi/)

Information and application

For more information concerning the position please contact Matthijs van Berkel via m [368] vanberkel [18] differ [368] nl (m[dot]vanberkel[at]differ[dot]nl).

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Closing date

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