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The blob that ate the tokamak: Physicists gain understanding of how bubbles at the edge of plasmas can drain heat and reduce fusion reaction efficiency

To fuse hydrogen atoms into helium, doughnut-shaped devices called tokamaks must maintain the heat of the ultrahot plasma they control. But like boiling water, plasma has blobs, or bubbles, that percolate within the plasma edge, reducing the performance of the plasma by taking away heat that sustains the fusion reactions.

The blob that ate the tokamak: Physicists gain understanding of how bubbles at the edge of plasmas can drain heat and reduce fusion reaction efficiency

To fuse hydrogen atoms into helium, doughnut-shaped devices called tokamaks must maintain the heat of the ultrahot plasma they control. But like boiling water, plasma has blobs, or bubbles, that percolate within the plasma edge, reducing the performance of the plasma by taking away heat that sustains the fusion reactions.

Research led by PPPL provides reassurance that heat flux will be manageable in ITER

A major issue facing ITER, the international tokamak under construction in France that will be the first magnetic fusion device to produce net energy, is whether the crucial divertor plates that will exhaust waste heat from the device can withstand the high heat flux, or load, that will strike them. Alarming projections extrapolated from existing tokamaks suggest that the heat flux could be so narrow and concentrated as to damage the tungsten divertor plates in the seven-story, 23,000 ton tokamak and require frequent and costly repairs.

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.

PPPL-led team wins major award of time on DOE supercomputers for fusion studies in 2017

A nationwide team of researchers led by physicist C.S. Chang of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has won the use of 269.9 million supercomputer hours to complete an extreme-scale study of the complex edge region of fusion plasmas. The award was made by the DOE’s ASCR Leadership Computing Challenge (ALCC) program for 2017, supported by DOE’s Office of Science.

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