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Plasma astrophysics

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A field of physics that is growing in interest worldwide that tackles such astrophysical phenomena as the source of violent space weather and the formation of stars.

Stewart Prager

Stewart Prager was the sixth director of PPPL. He joined the Laboratory in 2009 after a long career at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. At Wisconsin, he led research on the “Madison Symmetric Torus” (MST) experiment and headed a center that studied plasmas in both the laboratory and the cosmos. He also co-discovered the “bootstrap current” there—a key finding that has influenced the design of today’s tokamaks. He earned his PhD in plasma physics from Columbia University.

Experiments at PPPL show remarkable agreement with satellite sightings

As on Earth, so in space. A four-satellite mission that is studying magnetic reconnection — the breaking apart and explosive reconnection of the magnetic field lines in plasma that occurs throughout the universe — has found key aspects of the process in space to be strikingly similar to those found in experiments at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). The similarities show how the studies complement each other: The laboratory captures important global features of reconnection and the spacecraft documents local key properties as they occur.

From the cosmos to fusion plasmas, PPPL presents findings at global APS gathering

More than 135 researchers and students from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) presented their latest findings at the 60th annual meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics — a worldwide gathering focused on fundamental plasma science research and discoveries. Some 1,700 participants from more than two dozen countries joined the November 5-to-9 event in Portland, Oregon, presenting posters and talks on topics ranging from astrophysical plasmas to nanotechnology to magnetic confinement fusion experiments.

Turbulence in space might solve outstanding astrophysical mystery

Contrary to what many people believe, outer space is not empty. In addition to an electrically charged soup of ions and electrons known as plasma, space is permeated by magnetic fields with a wide range of strengths. Astrophysicists have long wondered how those fields are produced, sustained, and magnified. Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have shown that plasma turbulence might be responsible, providing a possible answer to what has been called one of the most important unsolved problems in plasma astrophysics.

Turbulence in space might solve outstanding astrophysical mystery

Contrary to what many people believe, outer space is not empty. In addition to an electrically charged soup of ions and electrons known as plasma, space is permeated by magnetic fields with a wide range of strengths. Astrophysicists have long wondered how those fields are produced, sustained, and magnified. Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have shown that plasma turbulence might be responsible, providing a possible answer to what has been called one of the most important unsolved problems in plasma astrophysics.

Surprise finding: Discovering a previously unknown role for a source of magnetic fields

Magnetic forces ripple throughout the universe, from the fields surrounding planets to the gasses filling galaxies, and can be launched by a phenomenon called the Biermann battery effect. Now scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have found that this phenomenon may not only generate magnetic fields, but can sever them to trigger magnetic reconnection – a remarkable and surprising discovery.

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory designated an historic mechanical engineering site

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) on Oct. 5 presented the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) with an engraved plaque designating the Laboratory an ASME historic mechanical engineering landmark for its achievements in the quest to develop magnetically controlled fusion energy. The ASME, which “promotes the art, science and practice of multidisciplinary engineering and allied sciences around the globe,” recognized  the Laboratory for its entire body of mechanical engineering achievements since 1951.

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