Energy that originates from the splitting of uranium atoms in a process called fission. This is distinct from a process called fusion where energy is released when atomic nuclei combine or fuse.
Phil Heitzenroeder, who leads the Mechanical Engineering Division at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and whose advice is sought by engineers around the world, has won the 2013 Fusion Technology Award. The high honor from the Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) recognizes outstanding contributions to research and development in the field of fusion technology.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has joined with five leading Chinese research institutions to form an international center to advance the development of fusion energy. Creators of the center organized its framework in March at a two-day session in Hefei, China, that brought together leaders of the world’s major fusion programs.
What is it like to be at the center of ITER, the huge international fusion experiment that is under construction in Cadarache, France? “It’s both exciting and challenging,” said physicist Rich Hawryluk, who recently returned to PPPL after a two-year stint as deputy director-general for the Administration Department of ITER. “It’s exciting in the scope and scale of this effort, and challenging in bringing such a large project to completion.”
PPPL postdoctoral fellow Ammar Hakim, center, described his poster on unified methods for simulating plasmas to physicists Steve Cowley, left, director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in the United Kingdom and a member of the PPPL Advisory Committee; and Frank Jenko of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Germany.
When the ITER experimental fusion reactor begins operation in the 2020s, over 40 diagnostic tools will provide essential data to researchers seeking to understand plasma behavior and optimize fusion performance. But before the ITER tokamak is built, researchers need to determine an efficient way of fitting all of these tools into a limited number of shielded ports that will protect the delicate diagnostic hardware and other parts of the machine from neutron flux and intense heat.
Physicist Rajesh Maingi remembers nearly everything. Results of experiments he did 20 years ago play back instantly in his mind, as do his credit card and bank account numbers.
His knack for recalling research results comes in particularly handy. “Knowing results from five-to-20 years ago makes it easier to ask the right questions for contemporary scientific programs,” Maingi said. Such findings have made him a leading expert on key aspects of the physics of plasma, the superhot, charged gas that fuels fusion reactions in donut-shaped magnetic facilities called tokamaks.
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