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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.

Ready, set, go: Scientists evaluate a novel technique for firing up the fuel that feeds fusion reactions

To capture and control on Earth the fusion reactions that drive the sun and stars, researchers must first turn room-temperature gas into the hot, charged plasma that fuels the reactions. At the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), scientists have conducted an analysis that confirms the effectiveness of a novel, non-standard way for starting up plasma in future compact fusion facilities.

Speeding the development of fusion power to create unlimited energy on Earth

Can tokamak fusion facilities, the most widely used devices for harvesting on Earth the fusion reactions that power the sun and stars, be developed more quickly to produce safe, clean, and virtually limitless energy for generating electricity? Physicist Jon Menard of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has examined that question in a detailed look at the concept of a compact tokamak equipped with high temperature superconducting (HTS) magnets.

Tied in knots: New insights into plasma behavior focus on twists and turns

Whether zipping through a star or a fusion device on Earth, the electrically charged particles that make up the fourth state of matter better known as plasma are bound to magnetic field lines like beads on a string. Unfortunately for plasma physicists who study this phenomenon, the magnetic field lines often lack simple shapes that equations can easily model. Often they twist and knot like pretzels. Sometimes, when the lines become particularly twisted, they snap apart and join back together, ejecting blobs of plasma and tremendous amounts of energy.

Tied in knots: New insights into plasma behavior focus on twists and turns

Whether zipping through a star or a fusion device on Earth, the electrically charged particles that make up the fourth state of matter better known as plasma are bound to magnetic field lines like beads on a string. Unfortunately for plasma physicists who study this phenomenon, the magnetic field lines often lack simple shapes that equations can easily model. Often they twist and knot like pretzels. Sometimes, when the lines become particularly twisted, they snap apart and join back together, ejecting blobs of plasma and tremendous amounts of energy.

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.

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