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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.

DOE’s Ed Synakowski traces key discoveries in the quest for fusion energy

The path to creating sustainable fusion energy as a clean, abundant and affordable source of electric energy has been filled with “aha moments” that have led to a point in history when the international fusion experiment, ITER, is poised to produce more fusion energy than it uses when it is completed in 15 to 20 years, said Ed Synakowski, associate director of Science for Fusion Energy Sciences at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

PPPL engineers design and build state-of-the-art controller for AC to DC converter that manages plasma in upgraded fusion machine

The electric current that powers fusion experiments requires superb control. Without it, the magnetic coils the current drives cannot contain and shape the plasma that fuels experiments in doughnut-shaped tokamaks correctly.

PPPL engineers design and build state-of-the-art controller for AC to DC converter that manages plasma in upgraded fusion machine

The electric current that powers fusion experiments requires superb control. Without it, the magnetic coils the current drives cannot contain and shape the plasma that fuels experiments in doughnut-shaped tokamaks correctly.

PPPL graduate students help create Princeton University Art Museum exhibition exploring art and physics

When you think of a physicist, what comes to mind? Perhaps a figure in a white lab coat tinkering with complex machinery. Or maybe a wild-haired theoretician scribbling equations on a chalkboard. And you might believe that the world of physics is entirely consumed with numbers and devices, with no connection to the non-scientific world. 

PPPL graduate students help create Princeton University Art Museum exhibition exploring art and physics

When you think of a physicist, what comes to mind? Perhaps a figure in a white lab coat tinkering with complex machinery. Or maybe a wild-haired theoretician scribbling equations on a chalkboard. And you might believe that the world of physics is entirely consumed with numbers and devices, with no connection to the non-scientific world.

PPPL researchers advance understanding of plasma turbulence that drains heat from fusion reactors

The life of a subatomic particle can be hectic. The charged nuclei and electrons that zip around the vacuum vessels of doughnut-shaped fusion machines known as tokamaks are always in motion. But while that motion helps produce the fusion reactions that could power a new class of electricity generator, the turbulence it generates can also limit those reactions.

PPPL researchers advance understanding of plasma turbulence that drains heat from fusion reactors

The life of a subatomic particle can be hectic. The charged nuclei and electrons that zip around the vacuum vessels of doughnut-shaped fusion machines known as tokamaks are always in motion. But while that motion helps produce the fusion reactions that could power a new class of electricity generator, the turbulence it generates can also limit those reactions. 

Plasma 101

  1. It’s the fourth state of matter: Solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Plasma is a super-heated gas, so hot that its electrons get out of the atom’s orbit and roam free. A gas thus becomes a plasma when extreme heat causes its atoms to shed their electrons.
  2. It’s everywhere. Plasma is the most abundant form of visible matter in the universe – it is thought to make up 99 percent of what we see in the night sky.

Developing the digital safeguard that protects the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade at PPPL

As the most powerful spherical tokamak in the world, the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) produces magnetic forces that are far greater than what its predecessor could generate. Moreover, the power supply system that drives current in the fusion facility’s electromagnetic coils can potentially produce even higher forces unless properly constrained.

Developing the digital safeguard that protects the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade at PPPL

As the most powerful spherical tokamak in the world, the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) produces magnetic forces that are far greater than what its predecessor could generate. Moreover, the power supply system that drives current in the fusion facility’s electromagnetic coils can potentially produce even higher forces unless properly constrained.

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

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