Press Releases Archive
Click here to view a cool infographic about fusion energy from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Among the top puzzles in the development of fusion energy is the best shape for the magnetic facility — or “bottle” — that will provide the next steps in the development of fusion reactors. Leading candidates include spherical tokamaks, compact machines that are shaped like cored apples, compared with the doughnut-like shape of conventional tokamaks. The spherical design produces high-pressure plasmas — essential ingredients for fusion reactions — with relatively low and cost-effective magnetic fields.
Runaway electrons, a searing, laser-like beam of electric current released by plasma disruptions, could damage the interior walls of future tokamaks the size of ITER, the international fusion experiment under construction in France. To help overcome this challenge, leading experts in the field have launched a multi-institutional center to find ways to prevent or mitigate such events.
"Chirp, chirp, chirp." The familiar sound of birds is also what researchers call a wave in plasma that breaks from a single note into rapidly changing notes. This behavior can cause heat in the form of high energy particles — or fast ions — to leak from the core of plasma inside tokamaks — doughnut-shaped facilities that house fusion reactions.
Physicists led by Gerrit Kramer at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have conducted simulations that suggest that applying magnetic fields to fusion plasmas can control instabilities known as Alfvén waves that can reduce the efficiency of fusion reactions. Such instabilities can cause quickly moving charged particles called "fast ions" to escape from the core of the plasma, which is corralled within machines known as tokamaks.
sma-materials interaction (PMI)on the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) in China. The centerpiece of the PPPL role in this project is the optimization of lithium delivery systems. The tests will be designed to optimize the production of long-pulse plasmas that last from 30 seconds to more than one minute. This project is supported by Fusion Energy Sciences in the DOE Office of Science.
Magnetic fusion energy and the plasma physics that underlies it are the topics of ambitious new books by Hutch Neilson, head of the Advanced Projects Department at PPPL, and Amitava Bhattacharjee, head of the Theory Department at the Laboratory. The books describe where research on magnetic fusion energy comes from and where it is going, and provide a basic understanding of the physics of plasma, the fourth state of matter that makes up 99 percent of the visible universe.
Among the intriguing issues in plasma physics are those surrounding X-ray pulsars — collapsed stars that orbit around a cosmic companion and beam light at regular intervals, like lighthouses in the sky. Physicists want to know the strength of the magnetic field and density of the plasma that surrounds these pulsars, which can be millions of times greater than the density of plasma in stars like the sun.
Princeton University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) are participating in the accelerated development of a modern high-performance computing code, or software package. Supporting this development is the Intel Parallel Computing Center (IPCC) Program, which provides funding to universities and laboratories to improve high-performance software capabilities for a wide range of disciplines.
Terry Brog, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s new deputy director for operations, brings with him decades of experience in senior leadership, most recently as manager of the Strategic Projects Division within the Facilities and Operations division at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington.
Plasma – the hot ionized gas that fuels fusion reactions – can also create super-small particles used in everything from pharmaceuticals to tennis racquets. These nanoparticles, which measure billionths of a meter in size, can revolutionize fields from electronics to energy supply, but scientists must first determine how best to produce them.
The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has received two national awards for its green purchasing program, adding to the long list of honors the Laboratory’s environmental program has received over the past several years.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) gave PPPL a silver Green Buy Award in April for its green purchasing program, while the Green Electronics Council gave PPPL a three-star EPEAT Purchaser Award for the Laboratory’s efforts to purchase environmentally sustainable electronics.
Steven Sabbagh and Jack Berkery, Columbia University physicists on assignment to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), have received the 2016 Landau-Spitzer Award for outstanding contributions to plasma physics. Also sharing in the award are Holger Reimerdes of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland and Yueqiang Liu of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in the United Kingdom. The award is named for Russian physicist Lev Landau, a 1962 Nobel laureate, and Princeton astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer, founder of PPPL.
Physicist Fatima Ebrahimi at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Princeton University has for the first time performed computer simulations indicating the efficiency of a start-up technique for doughnut-shaped fusion machines known as tokamaks. The simulations show that the technique, known as coaxial helicity injection (CHI), could also benefit tokamaks that use superconducting magnets. The research was published in March 2016, in Nuclear Fusion, and was supported by the DOE's Office of Science.
Physicist Egemen Kolemen, who has dual appointments at both Princeton University and the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), has been awarded funding from the DOE's Early Career Research Program. The grant, covering five years and totaling almost $850,000, will support research on how to monitor and control instabilities within fusion machines known as tokamaks.
Ronald C. Davidson, a pioneering plasma physicist for 50 years who directed the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) during a crucial period of its history and was a founding director of the Plasma Fusion Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), passed away on May 19 at his home in Cranbury, New Jersey, due to complications from pneumonia. He was 74.
U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz dedicated the most powerful spherical torus fusion facility in the world on Friday, May 20, 2016. The $94-million upgrade to the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX-U), funded by the DOE Office of Science, is a spherical tokamak fusion device that explores the creation of high-performance plasmas at 100-million degree temperatures many times hotter than the core of the sun.
A promising experiment that encloses hot, magnetically confined plasma in a full wall of liquid lithium is undergoing a $2 million upgrade at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). Engineers are installing a powerful neutral beam injector in the laboratory’s Lithium Tokamak Experiment (LTX), an innovative device used to test the liquid metal as a first wall that enhances plasma performance. The first wall material faces the plasma.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have challenged understanding of a key element in fusion plasmas. At issue has been an accurate prediction of the size of the “bootstrap current” — a self-generating electric current — and an understanding of what carries the current at the edge of plasmas in doughnut-shaped facilities called tokamaks.
Imène Goumiri, a Princeton University graduate student, has worked with physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) to simulate a method for limiting instabilities that reduce the performance of fusion plasmas. The more instabilities there are, the less efficiently doughnut-shaped fusion facilities called tokamaks operate. The journal Nuclear Fusion published results of this research in February 2016.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have helped design and test a component that could improve the performance of doughnut-shaped fusion facilities known as tokamaks. Called a "liquid lithium limiter," the device has circulated the protective liquid metal within the walls of China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) and kept the plasma from cooling down and halting fusion reactions. The journal Nuclear Fusion published results of the experiment in March 2016. The research was supported by the DOE Office of Science.
Some 575 seventh- to tenth-grade girls from throughout New Jersey, as well as Pennsylvania and Maryland, found fun and inspiration doing myriad hands-on activities and meeting female scientists at The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s 15th annual Young Women’s Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) on March 18. They talked to investigators from the FBI, watched colorful infrared images of themselves, played with robots, learned about electronics and plasma physics, saw cool chemistry, and heard about careers in STEM.
The world of fusion energy is a world of extremes. For instance, the center of the ultrahot plasma contained within the walls of doughnut-shaped fusion machines known as tokamaks can reach temperatures well above the 15 million degrees Celsius core of the sun. And even though the portion of the plasma closer to the tokamak's inner walls is 10 to 20 times cooler, it still has enough energy to erode the layer of liquid lithium that may be used to coat components that face the plasma in future tokamaks.
Physicists have long regarded plasma turbulence as unruly behavior that can limit the performance of fusion experiments. But new findings by researchers associated with the U.S.
Big Bang neutrinos are believed to be everywhere in the universe but have never been seen. The expansion of the universe has stretched them and they are thought to be billions of times colder than neutrinos that stream from the sun. As the oldest known witnesses or “relics” of the early universe, they could shed new light on the birth of the cosmos if scientists could pin them down. That’s a tall order since these ghostly particles can speed through planets as if they were empty space.
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).
Fifty seventh- and eighth-graders from John Witherspoon Middle School in Princeton came to PPPL for a half day on March 4 to become scientists – doing a variety of hands-on science activities, from building a motor to sampling ice cream frozen with liquid nitrogen in a cryogenics demonstration, to watching cool plasma demonstrations of lightning, static electricity and stars. They left wanting more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The announcement Feb. 11 of the detection of gravitational waves, predicted by Albert Einstein some 100 years ago, created a surge of excitement among physicists worldwide, including many with ties to Princeton University. Early evidence for the waves was found several decades ago by Princeton astrophysicist Joseph Taylor and Russell Hulse, a former physicist for the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. They received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1993.
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.
Shannon Greco, a science education program leader at PPPL, has been named one of the YWCA Princeton’s “women of excellence” for her work with young women and disadvantaged youth, including her help in starting two all-girls robotics teams for the YWCA Princeton.
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.
From launching the most powerful spherical tokamak on Earth to discovering a mechanism that halts solar eruptions, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory advanced the boundaries of clean energy and plasma science research in 2015. Here, in no particular order, are our picks for the Top-5 developments of the year:
Engineers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have finished designing a novel component for the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) stellarator, which recently opened at the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics (IPP) in Griefswald, Germany. Known as a "test divertor unit (TDU) scraper element," the component intercepts some of the heat flowing towards the divertor — a part of the machine that collects heat and particles as they escape from the plasma before they hit the stellarator wall or degrade the plasma's performance.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have produced self-consistent computer simulations that capture the evolution of an electric current inside fusion plasma without using a central electromagnet, or solenoid. The simulations of the process, known as non-inductive current ramp-up, were performed using TRANSP, the gold-standard code developed at PPPL. The results were published in October 2015 in Nuclear Fusion. The research was supported by the DOE Office of Science.
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