PPPL engineer wins sought-after seat on the IEEE Fusion Technology Standing Committee

Written by
John Greenwald
Jan. 10, 2023

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has seated Marc-André De Looz, a senior engineer and project manager at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), to a four-year term on its Fusion Technology Standing Committee. De Looz’s election maintains a strong PPPL voice on the committee, whose focus ranges from making recommendations to the U.S. government on key aspects of fusion technology to organizing biennial fusion symposia that the community follows closely. 

“I’m super excited about this position,” said de Looz, who leads development of a diagnostic instrument to measure the density of plasma — the soup of free electrons and atomic nuclei that fuels fusion reactions — for ITER, the international fusion experiment under construction in France. “This position is aligned with my personal values and my overall interest in what I’m doing with my career, which is plasma fusion research, the infinite energy source of the future.” 

Maintains leadership

The position maintains PPPL’s leadership on fusion in IEEE, he adds. PPPL colleague Ankita Jariwala just completed her term, “and I’ll be speaking with her to understand what she has done over the past four years to roughly understand what I’ll be doing as well.”

Scientists and engineers around the world are developing the science and technology to reproduce and control on Earth the fusion energy that drives the sun and stars. This cosmic energy could be a safe, carbon-free and 24-hour-a-day source of power to generate electricity without contributing to climate change.

De Looz earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 and joined PPPL in 2019 following 11 years of engineering design and management work at Schlumberger, a major supplier of engineering services for the petroleum industry. Before that, he spent a year at Metrologic, now part of Honeywell, supporting subassembly designs through beta and pilot stages and into production. 

At PPPL, he serves as technical lead and project manager with overall responsibility for a fusion   measurement device to be delivered later this decade. The complex system, called the toroidal interferometer polarimeter (TIP), measures the density of electrons at the hotter-than-the sun temperatures that experimental fusion reactions require. The laser-based system calls for placement of mirrors that must maintain precise positional tolerance under extreme operating conditions.

De Looz relates the tolerance that must be met to the advice for archers in Eugen Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery. “If the archer even breathes, he cannot hit the target,” De Looz says, paraphrasing the classic book.

“A consummate professional”

“Marc-André is above all else a consummate professional in his approach when dealing with the multiple challenges that he and his team face on a daily basis, which span not just geographical locations but multiple disciplines,” said Ruben Fair, who heads development of the six diagnostic devices that PPPL is producing for ITER. 
“It’s clear that his leadership skills developed during his time at Schlumberger here in the U.S. and on the Indian subcontinent, where he led a sizeable team of engineers, is proving to be of enormous benefit to Princeton and the ITER project,” Fair said. “His technical understanding and insight into the intricacies of the diagnostic instrument’s [optical and mechanical] design has allowed the team to make substantial progress towards completing the preliminary design of the system.”

De Looz’s achievements across industries are widely recognized. He shares two patents on oil industry devices, has presented an industry talk on a unique X-ray tool for gathering subsurface terrain data, and has developed a poster on steel diagnostic supports for the IEEE’s 2021 Society of Fusion Engineering conference. 

When not tackling engineering challenges, “I can't relax unless I am active,” de Looz says. His widely varied activities range from cooking, traveling, and learning languages to motorcycling, sketching, cartooning and archery. Moreover, he says, there’s fixing tools and electronics, creating clay sculpture, “and the list goes on.”

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PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science