A nuclear fusion reactor in which a magnetic field keeps charged, hot plasma moving in a doughnut-shaped vacuum container.
Physicist Rajesh Maingi remembers nearly everything. Results of experiments he did 20 years ago play back instantly in his mind, as do his credit card and bank account numbers.
His knack for recalling research results comes in particularly handy. “Knowing results from five-to-20 years ago makes it easier to ask the right questions for contemporary scientific programs,” Maingi said. Such findings have made him a leading expert on key aspects of the physics of plasma, the superhot, charged gas that fuels fusion reactions in donut-shaped magnetic facilities called tokamaks.
Scientists participating in the worldwide effort to develop magnetic fusion energy for generating electricity gave progress reports to the 2013 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston. Speaking were physicists George "Hutch" Neilson of the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and Richard Hawryluk, deputy director-general of the ITER Organization. Following are summaries of their presentations.
Previewing the next steps on the path to a magnetic fusion power plant
By John Greenwald
Physicist John Schmidt, whose profound and wide-ranging contributions to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) made him a highly respected leader in the worldwide quest for fusion energy, died on February 13 following a brain hemorrhage. He was 72.
Three teams led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have won major blocks of time on two of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. Two of the projects seek to advance the development of nuclear fusion as a clean and abundant source of energy by improving understanding of the superhot, electrically charged plasma gas that fuels fusion reactions.
Research to develop fusion energy has shown “significant progress” in many areas, according to a new report from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a think tank whose members represent some 90 percent of the electricity produced in the United States. At the same time, the report said that a commercial fusion power plant is at least 30 years away, and called for more research on the engineering challenges.
The French government has capped more than two years of review by issuing a license for the construction of ITER, the international fusion project that the European Union, the United States and five other countries are building in Cadarache, France, to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault signed the decree authorizing the license on Nov. 10, 2012. The move confirms the safety of the ITER project and clears the way for its construction.
Robert Goldston is a professor of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University and an international leader in the fields of plasma physics and magnetic fusion energy. From 1997 to 2009 he served as Director of PPPL. He is the author of 220 papers in journals and conference proceedings, and in 1995 co- authored with Paul Rutherford the textbook “Introduction to Plasma Physics.” He is a contributing author to five other books. In 1988, he was awarded the American Physical Society Prize for Excellence in Plasma Physics.
Heat escaping from the core of a twelve-million degree nuclear fusion plasma device was successfully contained by a snowflake-shaped magnetic field to mitigate its impact on device walls.
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.
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