NPRE alum wins college award for graduate student outstanding research
Peter Fiflis, who earned all three degrees from Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at Illinois, has won the 2017 College of Engineering Ross J. Martin Award for outstanding research achievement by a graduate student.
“Peter Fiflis has produced more outstanding research results than any other student I have advised,” enthused Prof. David Ruzic, a 32-year veteran of the NPRE Department, in nominating his former mentee for the honor. In the first four years of graduate school, Fiflis produced 12 refereed journal publications, and was first author on eight of them. “The amazing thing is that these spanned multiple experiments and ideas,” Ruzic said.
Supported by a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science Graduate Fellowship to study Fusion Energy Sciences, Fiflis worked in the Center for Plasma-Material Interactions that Ruzic directs. Among accomplishments, Fiflis designed an experiment that produced “tungsten fuzz,” a material that can collect in energy fusion devices and seriously threaten fusion’s application as a successful energy source. With Fiflis’ ingenuity, CPMI researchers produced the tungsten fuzz without having access to a fusion device.
Fiflis also worked on liquid metal stability inside fusion devices. The research investigated how well a liquid metal wall can withstand strikes from hot plasmas without spurting the liquid metal all over the fusion device. Fiflis and colleagues performed experiments on CPMI’s Divertor Edge and Vapor shielding eXperiment (DEVeX), developed to produce a pulsed, high density, high temperature plasma. He then traveled to the Netherlands to use the Magnum PSI plasma gun to test the ability of liquid-filled metal trenches to stand up to intense plasma strikes.
Fiflis also designed an electrostatic liquid lithium dropper that functions inside a vacuum system and around high magnetic fields. CPMI scientists wanted to inject small amounts of molten lithium into a plasma for control purposes. “He expanded his work to measure the wetting of lithium and measure its thermoelectric properties,” Ruzic said.
While in China to replicate the device he built at CPMI, Fiflis led researchers in producing a set of lithium spheres there were later injected into China’s Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST).
Fiflis earned a bachelor’s in 2011, a master’s in 2013, and a PhD in 2016. He currently is Lead Product Engineer for Chicago-based Tovala, a startup firm that produces internet-connected combi ovens.
The award is in memorial to Ross J. Martin, Associate Dean of the College, who served as director of the Engineering Experiment Station for 26 years until his death in 1984.