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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.

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.

PPPL, Princeton University physicists join German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Wendelstein 7-X celebration

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) physicists collaborating on the Wendelstein 7-X (W 7-X) stellarator fusion energy device in Greifswald, Germany, were on hand for the Feb. 3 celebration when German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed a button to produce a hydrogen-fueled superhot gas called a plasma. The occasion officially recognized a device that is the largest and most advanced fusion experiment of its kind in the world.

A Q&A With the Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Dr. Stewart Prager

Q: What is fusion and how can it produce energy?

A: Fusion is the energy source of our sun and the stars. In a fusion reaction, two atomic nuclei fuse and produce very fast-moving particles. Billions of such reactions occurring in a hot gas of electrically-charged particles, a plasma, produce substantial heat. So a reactor produces heat from fusion using hot plasma. The heat then can be converted to electricity. Essentially, we would be producing a “star on earth,” taking its energy, converting it to steam and generating electricity.

PPPL team wins 80 million processor hours on nation's fastest supercomputer

The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a total of 80 million processor hours on the fastest supercomputer in the nation to an astrophysical project based at the DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). The grants will enable researchers led by Amitava Bhattacharjee, head of the Theory Department at PPPL, and physicist Will Fox to study the dynamics of magnetic fields in the high-energy density plasmas that lasers create. Such plasmas can closely approximate those that occur in some astrophysical objects.

PPPL team wins 80 million processor hours on nation's fastest supercomputer

The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a total of 80 million processor hours on the fastest supercomputer in the nation to an astrophysical project based at the DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). The grants will enable researchers led by Amitava Bhattacharjee, head of the Theory Department at PPPL, and physicist Will Fox to study the dynamics of magnetic fields in the high-energy density plasmas that lasers create. Such plasmas can closely approximate those that occur in some astrophysical objects.

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