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Plasma physics

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The study of plasma, a partially-ionized gas that is electrically conductive and able to be confined within a magnetic field, and how it releases energy.

Stewart Prager

Stewart Prager was the sixth director of PPPL. He joined the Laboratory in 2009 after a long career at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. At Wisconsin, he led research on the “Madison Symmetric Torus” (MST) experiment and headed a center that studied plasmas in both the laboratory and the cosmos. He also co-discovered the “bootstrap current” there—a key finding that has influenced the design of today’s tokamaks. He earned his PhD in plasma physics from Columbia University.

Discovered: A quick and easy way to shut down instabilities in fusion devices

Scientists have discovered a remarkably simple way to suppress a common instability that can halt fusion reactions and damage the walls of reactors built to create a “star in a jar.” The findings, published in June in the journal Physical Review Letters, stem from experiments performed on the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U), at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).

PPPL delivers new key components to help power a fusion energy experiment

Fusion power, which lights the sun and stars, requires temperatures of millions of degrees to fuse the particles inside plasma, a soup of charged gas that fuels fusion reactions. Here on Earth, scientists developing fusion as a safe, clean and abundant source of energy must produce temperatures hotter than the core of the sun in doughnut-shaped facilities called tokamaks. Much of the power needed to reach these temperatures comes from high-energy beams that physicists pump into the plasma through devices known as neutral beam injectors.

Simulation demonstrates how exposure to plasma makes carbon nanotubes grow

At the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), research performed with collaborators from Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Computational Science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook has shown how plasma causes exceptionally strong, microscopic structures known as carbon nanotubes to grow. Such tubes, measured in billionths of a meter, are found in everything from electrodes to dental implants and have many advantageous properties.

Simulation demonstrates how exposure to plasma makes carbon nanotubes grow

At the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), research performed with collaborators from Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Computational Science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook has shown how plasma causes exceptionally strong, microscopic structures known as carbon nanotubes to grow. Such tubes, measured in billionths of a meter, are found in everything from electrodes to dental implants and have many advantageous properties.

Updated computer code improves prediction of energetic particle motion in plasma experiments

A computer code used by physicists around the world to analyze and predict tokamak experiments can now approximate the behavior of highly energetic atomic nuclei, or ions, in fusion plasmas more accurately than ever. The new capability, developed by physicist Mario Podestà at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), outfits the code known as TRANSP with a subprogram that simulates the motion that leads to the loss of energetic ions caused by instabilities in the plasma that fuels fusion reactions.

Updated computer code improves prediction of energetic particle motion in plasma experiments

A computer code used by physicists around the world to analyze and predict tokamak experiments can now approximate the behavior of highly energetic atomic nuclei, or ions, in fusion plasmas more accurately than ever. The new capability, developed by physicist Mario Podestà at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), outfits the code known as TRANSP with a subprogram that simulates the motion that leads to the loss of energetic ions caused by instabilities in the plasma that fuels fusion reactions.

PPPL researchers perform first basic-physics simulation of the impact of recycled atoms on plasma turbulence

Turbulence, the violently unruly disturbance of plasma, can prevent plasma from growing hot enough to fuel fusion reactions. Long a puzzling concern of researchers has been the impact on turbulence of atoms recycled from the walls of tokamaks that confine the plasma.

PPPL researchers perform first basic-physics simulation of the impact of recycled atoms on plasma turbulence

Turbulence, the violently unruly disturbance of plasma, can prevent plasma from growing hot enough to fuel fusion reactions. Long a puzzling concern of researchers has been the impact on turbulence of atoms recycled from the walls of tokamaks that confine the plasma.

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