Other Physics and Engineering Research
DIII-D—PPPL scientists participate in experiments on the DIII-D tokamak, the largest U.S. fusion facility, which General Atomics operates in San Diego for the U.S. Department of Energy. Five PPPL researchers are currently assigned to the DIII-D on a year-round basis. Additional researchers travel there on a regular basis and support work is performed at PPPL. https://fusion.gat.com/global/DIII-D
Alcator C-MOD—The MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center operates this tokamak for the DOE. Two PPPL researchers are assigned to this facility and participate in experiments there. Additional researchers travel there on a regular basis and support work is performed at PPPL. http://www.psfc.mit.edu/research/alcator/
PPPL employs strong magnets to control the plasma in fusion and plasma science experiments. The Laboratory’s new Princeton Tritium Observatory for Light, Early Universe, Massive Neutrino Yield (PTOLEMY) employs magnets in a system that seeks to detect neutrinos created shortly after the Big Bang. Detection of these relic neutrinos, which are thought to be among the oldest and smallest subatomic particles, could provide important insights into the formation of the early universe.
Developing Medical Isotopes
Researchers at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory are using their knowledge of fusion to develop a solution to chronic shortages of a radioactive element vital to medical exams. The researchers are creating a compact device that hospitals could install on their premises to produce the material, called Technitium-99m (Tc-99m), the world’s most widely used medical isotope for diagnostic examinations. Tc-99m comes from the radioactive decay of a man-made substance called Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99). The $5 billion-a-year industry presently producing Mo-99 is plagued by supply delays caused by lengthy supply lines and frequent shutdowns at a handful of aging nuclear reactors.
Coil Design and Fabrication
PPPL Engineers have designed and delivered a crucial barn-door size component for a major device for developing fusion power. The component, called a “trim coil,” marks the initial installment of one of the largest hardware collaborations that PPPL has conducted with an international partner. The 2,400-pound trim coil is the first of five coils that PPPL is producing for the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator, or W7-X, that the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) is building in Greifswald, Germany. The powerful coils will fine-tune the shape of the superhot, charged gas called plasma that the W7-X will use to study conditions required for fusion when the machine begins operating in 2015.
Surface Chemistry Laboratory
Bruce Koel, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at Princeton University, is joining with PPPL scientists to tackle the challenge of capturing the energy of the sun on Earth. Koel’s mission is to apply his expertise in surface chemistry to solving one of the biggest obstacles facing fusion: how to keep the fusion reaction burning for long periods. The fusing together of atoms releases vast amounts of energy, but the process can take place only at extremely high temperatures. For fusion to be the basis of the power plant of the future, scientists need to find ways to keep the process from cooling. Amazingly, a thin metal lining, just the width of a human hair, on the inner wall of the reactor could help prevent this cooling. Koel is collaborating with PPPL scientists to study materials for this lining. The most promising lining is lithium, the lightest metal on Earth and the only metal that floats on water. Lithium can act like a sponge, soaking up stray particles that flee the fusion reaction. To explore lithium and other inner wall surfaces, Koel established a new materials characterization lab at PPPL dedicated to surface analysis.
PPPL researchers regularly travel to these major projects, where they serve as consultants and participate in experiments:
China: EAST(Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak) http://english.hf.cas.cn/ic/ip/east/
Korea: KSTAR (Korean Superconducting Tokamak Reactor) http://tempest.das.ucdavis.edu/pdg/KSTAR1/KSTAR!.htm
Japan: Large Helical Device The world largest stellarator, a type of fusion device that serves as an alternative to the tokamak. http://www.lhd.nifs.ac.jp/en/
PPPL has a variety of relationships with these fusion projects:
France—ITER The United States is a partner with five other countries and the European Union in the construction and operation of this tokamak, which represents the next major step in the development of fusion power. PPPL is designing and building diagnostic equipment for ITER, which is under construction in Cadarache, France, to demonstrate fusion as a source of clean and abundant energy. http://www.iter.org/
Germany—Max Planck Society PPPL and Princeton University have joined forces with this research institution to form the Max Planck Princeton Research Center for Plasma Physics. The new center will combine the capabilities of PPPL and Princeton’s Department of Astrophysical Sciences with the Max Planck Society's institutes for plasma physics, astrophysics and solar system research.
The new center will further collaboration between the Max Planck Society and PPPL, which is designing and delivering trim coils to fine-tune plasma inside the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator that the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics is building.
United Kingdom—JET (Joint European Torus) PPPL is collaborating on a consulting basis with this project, the largest tokamak currently in operation. http://www.efda.org/jet/