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PPPL awards coil contract to Pennsylvania firm

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has awarded an $800,000 contract to a Nazareth, Pa.-based magnet manufacturer that will enable the production of essential components designed for an advanced fusion experiment.

The PPPL-designed components, known as “trim coils”, will be manufactured by Everson Tesla, Incorporated (ETI) of Nazareth, Pa. The barn door-size coils, which fine-tune the shape of the magnetic “bottle” confining the hot ionized gas studied in fusion, will be installed in the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator, also known as W7-X, a fusion research device being constructed at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Greifswald, Germany.

Fusion is the process in which light atoms, such as those of hydrogen, are fused or joined.

 “Our experience in copper coil engineering for fusion experiments, and our relationship with suppliers like ETI, enables the U.S. to make a valued contribution to the project, in exchange for which U.S. researchers will be able to lead and participate in experiments on W7-X,” said George “Hutch” Neilson, director of advanced projects at PPPL.

The company will produce five trim coils from copper conductor furnished by PPPL, using an epoxy-like compound to provide strength and maintain the exact shape and dimensions.

“We look forward to another collaboration with PPPL,” said Greg Naumovich, the president of Everson Tesla, one of the remaining large magnet manufacturers in the U.S. where workers have collaborated with PPPL for more than 20 years. The project, Naumovich said, will ensure the employment of several skilled technicians.  “Our country must support technology development and skilled manufacturing facilities to ensure a bright future,” he noted.

Lab scientists and engineers began the design effort in January 2011 and concluded that effort with the awarding of the contract. Researchers from PPPL will manage and oversee the ETI contract, making frequent plant visits to monitor progress in the manufacturing and testing processes.

The main object of fusion research is to develop a power plant that, like the sun, derives energy from the fusion of atomic nuclei. This requires that the fuel – an ionized, low-density gas known as a plasma – be confined in a magnetic “bottle” and then heated to an ignition temperature of more than 100 million degrees. The W7-X vessel is a stellarator, one of two major configurations for experimental fusion devices. A stellarator confines plasma with a magnetic field that is shaped like a cruller – a spiral wrapped around a circle.

 “The collaboration with W7‑X provides an opportunity for U.S. scientists to work on a fusion experiment with capabilities not available in the U.S. and to advance the understanding of stellarator physics, a key goal of the U.S. fusion program and fully in keeping with PPPL’s mission,” Neilson said. “The U.S. can contribute to the project by virtue of our experience in stellarator physics and engineering.”Researchers at PPPL, managed by Princeton University and funded by the DOE’s Office of Science, collaborate with scientists around the world to develop fusion as an energy source for America and the world. Fusion is the process that powers the Sun and other stars. In the interior of stars, matter is converted into energy by the fusion, or joining, of the nuclei of light atoms to form heavier elements.

U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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