The National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX), which underwent a $94 million upgrade, is being repaired. It will be the most powerful experimental fusion facility, or tokamak, of its type in the world when it is back in operation. Experiments will test the ability of the upgraded spherical facility to maintain a high-performance plasma under conditions of extreme heat and power. Results could strongly influence the design of future fusion reactors.
Electric current is everywhere, from powering homes to controlling the plasma that fuels fusion reactions to possibly giving rise to vast cosmic magnetic fields. Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have found that electrical currents can form in ways not known before.
Arms control robots and accelerating the drive to bring fusion energy to Earth are among achievements that made 2019 another remarkable PPPL year.
Creating a star on Earth requires a delicate balance between pumping enormous amounts of energy into plasma to make it hot enough for fusion to occur and preventing that heat from escaping. Now, physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have identified a method by which instabilities can be tamed and heat can be prevented from leaking from the plasma, giving scientists a better grasp on how to optimize conditions for fusion in devices known as tokamaks.
An obstacle to generating fusion reactions inside facilities called tokamaks is that producing the current in plasma that helps create confining magnetic fields happens in pulses. Such pulses, generated by an electromagnet that runs down the center of the tokamak, would make the steady-state creation of fusion energy difficult to achieve. To address the problem, physicists have developed a technique known as transient coaxial helicity injection (CHI) to create a current that is not pulsed.
More than 155 researchers and students — the largest delegation from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in recent years — attended the 61st annual meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics (APS-DPP) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
How do you start a fusion reaction, the process that lights the sun and stars, on Earth? Like lighting a match to start a fire, you first produce plasma, the state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei that fuels fusion reactions, and raise it to temperatures rivaling the sun in hundreds of milliseconds.
Stefan Gerhardt, who heads research operations and serves as deputy director of the recovery project for the flagship fusion facility at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), has been elected a 2019 American Physical Society (APS) Fellow. The APS annually recognizes as fellows no more than one-half of one percent of its more than 55,000 worldwide members.
Scientists who use magnetic fields to bottle up and control on Earth the fusion reactions that power the sun and stars must correct any errors in the shape of the fields that contain the reactions. Such errors produce deviations from the symmetrical form of the fields in doughnut-like tokamak fusion facilities that can have a damaging impact on the stability and confinement of the hot, charged plasma gas that fuels the reactions.
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.
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