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Nearly everybody knows about lithium – a light, silvery alkali metal – used in rechargeable batteries powering everything from laptops to hybrid cars. What  may not be so well known is the fact that researchers hoping to harness the energy released in fusion reactions also have used lithium to coat the walls of donut-shaped tokamak reactors. Lithium, it turns out, may help the plasmas fueling fusion reactions to retain heat for longer periods of time. This could improve the chances of producing useful energy from fusion.

Innovative design using loops of liquid metal can improve future fusion power plants, scientists say

Researchers led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have proposed an innovative design to improve the ability of future fusion power plants to generate safe, clean and abundant energy in a steady state, or constant, manner. The design uses loops of liquid lithium to clean and recycle the tritium, the radioactive hydrogen isotope that fuels fusion reactions, and to protect the divertor plates from intense exhaust heat from the tokamak that contains the reactions.

PPL researchers demonstrate first hot plasma edge in a fusion facility

Two major issues confronting magnetic-confinement fusion energy are enabling the walls of devices that house fusion reactions to survive bombardment by energetic particles, and improving confinement of the plasma required for the reactions. At the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), researchers have found that coating tokamak walls with lithium— a light, silvery metal— can lead to progress on both fronts.

U.S.-China collaboration makes excellent start in optimizing lithium to control fusion plasmas

China has the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) facility, a steady-state capable superconducting tokamak with many auxiliary systems being developed to qualify reactor-relevant technology.  As such, EAST is well-suited to address gaps in the physics basis for steady-state operation, plasma control, and plasma-material interfaces. Continued collaborations with EAST (ongoing since the start of the EAST project) enables U.S.

Scientists at PPPL further understanding of a process that causes heat loss in fusion devices

Everyone knows that the game of billiards involves balls careening off the sides of a pool table — but few people may know that the same principle applies to fusion reactions. How charged particles like electrons and atomic nuclei that make up plasma interact with the walls of doughnut-shaped devices known as tokamaks helps determine how efficiently fusion reactions occur. Specifically, in a phenomenon known as secondary electron emission (SEE), electrons strike the surface of the wall, causing other electrons to be emitted.


U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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