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.
Some 135 researchers, graduate students, and staff members from PPPL joined 1,500 research scientists from around the world at the 56th annual meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics Conference from Oct. 27 to Oct. 31 in New Orleans. Topics in the sessions ranged from waves in plasma to the physics of ITER, the international physics experiment in Cadarache, France; to women in plasma physics. Dozens of PPPL scientists presented the results of their cutting-edge research into magnetic fusion and plasma science.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics in Germany have devised a new method for minimizing turbulence in bumpy donut-shaped experimental fusion facilities called stellarators.
Science fans will get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the cutting edge research taking place at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory when the Laboratory, which already offers tours to groups, opens up its doors to smaller groups or individuals with new twice-monthly public tours starting in October.
PPPL has successfully tested a Laboratory-designed device to be used to diminish the size of instabilities known as “edge localized modes (ELMs)” on the DIII–D tokamak that General Atomics operates for the U.S. Department of Energy in San Diego. Such instabilities can damage the interior of fusion facilities.
The PPPL device injects granular lithium particles into tokamak plasmas to increase the frequency of the ELMs. The method aims to make the ELMs smaller and reduce the amount of heat that strikes the divertor that exhausts heat in fusion facilities.
Low temperature plasma (LTP) in air-containing gas mixtures produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as O, O2-, and OH and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) such as NO and NO2 which exhibit strong oxidative properties and/or trigger signaling pathways in biological cells. For example oxidation of the lipids and proteins that constitute the membrane of biological cells leads to the loss of their functions. In such environment bacterial cells were found to die in minutes or even seconds.
Experiments in the C-2 device have recently concluded after six years of operation. Research will resume in winter 2015 on an upgraded device. The main goal of the C-2 device was to establish the foundation for high-beta Field Reversed Configuration (FRC) plasmas sustained by neutral beam injection. The C-2 campaigns proved successful, and yielded very significant advances in FRC formation, stability, and confinement. Dynamic FRC formation produced hot FRCs through merging of two high-velocity Compact Torii.
Magnetic reconnection can trigger geomagnetic storms that disrupt cell phone service, damage satellites and blackout power grids. But how reconnection, in which the magnetic field lines in plasma snap apart and violently reconnect, transforms magnetic energy into explosive particle energy remains a major unsolved problem in plasma astrophysics. Magnetic field lines represent the strength and direction of magnetic fields.
Hutch Neilson, PPPL’s head of Advanced Projects, is saying “auf wiedersehen” to the Lab for the next nine months as he travels to Greifswald, Germany, where he will be paving the way for future U.S. researchers to participate on the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) program as the experiment begins preparing for operations next year.
David Gates, a principal research physicist and the stellarator physics leader at PPPL, will be serving as Interim Head of Advanced Projects in Neilson’s absence.
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.
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