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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.

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.

Confirming a little-understood source of the process behind northern lights and the formation of stars

Fast magnetic reconnection, the rapid convergence, separation and explosive snapping together of magnetic field lines, gives rise to northern lights, solar flares and geomagnetic storms that can disrupt cell phone service and electric power grids. The phenomenon takes place in plasma, the state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei, or ions, that makes up 99 percent of the visible universe. But whether fast reconnection can occur in partially ionized plasma — plasma that includes atoms as well as free electrons and ions — is not well understood.

Confirming a little-understood source of the process behind northern lights and the formation of stars

Fast magnetic reconnection, the rapid convergence, separation and explosive snapping together of magnetic field lines, gives rise to northern lights, solar flares and geomagnetic storms that can disrupt cell phone service and electric power grids. The phenomenon takes place in plasma, the state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei, or ions, that makes up 99 percent of the visible universe. But whether fast reconnection can occur in partially ionized plasma — plasma that includes atoms as well as free electrons and ions — is not well understood.

Novel experiment validates a widely speculated and important mechanism during the formation of stars and planets

How have stars and planets developed from the clouds of dust and gas that once filled the cosmos? A novel experiment at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has demonstrated the validity of a widespread theory known as “magnetorotational instability,” or MRI, that seeks to explain the formation of heavenly bodies.

Remote-control plasma physics experiment is named one of top Webcams of 2018

Want to create your own plasma? You can create and control a plasma from the comfort of your own device.

The Remote Glow Discharge Experiment (RGDX) at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) allows you to turn on a plasma and change the gas pressure, the voltage, and the strength of the electromagnets surrounding it from wherever you are. From a web browser, you can control a plasma with a magnetic field, the same way scientists control a plasma in a tokamak, the magnetic devices that scientists use in fusion experiments.

Remote-control plasma physics experiment is named one of top Webcams of 2018

Want to create your own plasma? You can create and control a plasma from the comfort of your own device.

The Remote Glow Discharge Experiment (RGDX) at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) allows you to turn on a plasma and change the gas pressure, the voltage, and the strength of the electromagnets surrounding it from wherever you are. From a web browser, you can control a plasma with a magnetic field, the same way scientists control a plasma in a tokamak, the magnetic devices that scientists use in fusion experiments.

Fiery sighting: A new physics of eruptions that damage fusion experiments

Sudden bursts of heat that can damage the inner walls of tokamak fusion experiments are a hurdle that operators of the facilities must overcome. Such bursts, called “edge localized modes (ELMs),” occur in doughnut-shaped tokamak devices that house the hot, charged plasma that is used to replicate on Earth the power that drives the sun and other stars. Now researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have directly observed a possible and previously unknown process that can trigger damaging ELMs.

Fiery sighting: A new physics of eruptions that damage fusion experiments

Sudden bursts of heat that can damage the inner walls of tokamak fusion experiments are a hurdle that operators of the facilities must overcome. Such bursts, called “edge localized modes (ELMs),” occur in doughnut-shaped tokamak devices that house the hot, charged plasma that is used to replicate on Earth the power that drives the sun and other stars. Now researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have directly observed a possible and previously unknown process that can trigger damaging ELMs.

Found: A precise method for determining how waves and particles affect fusion reactions

Like surfers catching ocean waves, particles within the hot, electrically charged state of matter known as plasma can ride waves that oscillate through the plasma during experiments to investigate the production of fusion energy. The oscillations can displace the particles so far that they escape from the doughnut-shaped tokamak that houses the experiments, cooling the plasma and making fusion reactions less efficient. Now a team of physicists led by the U.S.

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