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August 10, 2020

Picture an airplane that can only climb to one or two altitudes after taking off. That limitation would be similar to the plight facing scientists who seek to avoid instabilities that restrict the path to clean, safe and abundant fusion energy in doughnut-shaped tokamak facilities. Researchers at the U.S.

August 4, 2020

Scientists have found a novel way to prevent pesky magnetic bubbles in plasma from interfering with fusion reactions – delivering a potential way to improve the performance of fusion energy devices. And it comes from managing radio frequency (RF) waves to stabilize the magnetic bubbles, which can expand and create disruptions that can limit the performance of ITER, the international facility under construction in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power.

July 30, 2020

Exploration of the processes behind supernova shockwaves has won Will Fox, a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), the John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research. The honor, awarded by the American Physical Society (APS), recognizes “a recent outstanding achievement in plasma physics research.” Fox shares this year’s award with 10 physicists in the U.S., Japan, and Britain.

Exciting progress

July 29, 2020

Lithium, the silvery metal that powers smart phones and helps treat bipolar disorders, could also play a significant role in the worldwide effort to harvest on Earth the safe, clean and virtually limitless fusion energy(link is external) that powers the sun and stars. First results of the extensively upgraded Lithium Tokamak Experiment-Beta (LTX-β) at the U.S.

July 28, 2020

An early career physicist with a strong background in plasma physics who is focused on laser-based diagnostics has been appointed to a fellowship that honors pioneering physicist Robert A. Ellis Jr. and is aimed at encouraging more diversity in plasma physics research at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).

July 23, 2020

Physicist Yuan Shi, who received his doctorate from the Princeton Program in Plasma Physics in 2018, has won the prestigious 2020 Marshall N. Rosenbluth Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award presented by the American Physical Society (APS).  The award recognizes “exceptional young scientists who have performed original doctoral thesis research of outstanding scientific quality and achievement in the area of plasma physics.” 

July 21, 2020

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have furthered understanding of a barrier that can prevent doughnut-shaped fusion facilities known as tokamaks from operating at high efficiency by causing vital heat to be lost from them.

July 13, 2020

Barbara Harrison, PPPL’s new equity, diversity and inclusion business partner, has made an effort to hire a more diverse staff as a talent acquisition specialist at PPPL for the past two years. Now she plans to focus on helping to make the Laboratory’s culture become more diverse and inclusive.

“PPPL needs to be more proactive about diversity and inclusion and anti-racism through recruitment, hiring, and nurturing the talent we have,” said Steve Cowley, PPPL director. “I am delighted to have Barbara bring her experience and insights to this important new role.”

July 13, 2020

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s internship programs have gone virtual with 47 interns from all over the U.S. working on projects remotely and hundreds tuning in to a virtual introductory course in plasma physics and fusion energy.

July 10, 2020

Travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic are transforming, with pluses and minuses, scientific conferences around the world. Take the Coordinated Working Group Meeting (CWGM), an international event cohosted by the U.S.

June 30, 2020

A challenge to creating fusion energy on Earth is trapping the charged gas known as plasma that fuels fusion reactions within a strong magnetic field and keeping the plasma as hot and dense as possible for as long as possible. Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have gained new insight into a common type of hiccup known as the sawtooth instability that cools the hot plasma in the center and interferes with the fusion reactions. These findings could help bring fusion energy closer to reality.

June 24, 2020

One way that scientists seek to bring to Earth the fusion process that powers the sun and stars is trapping hot, charged plasma gas within a twisting magnetic coil device shaped like a breakfast cruller. But the device, called a stellarator, must be precisely engineered to prevent heat from escaping the plasma core where it stokes the fusion reactions. Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have demonstrated that an advanced computer code could help design stellarators that confine the essential heat more effectively.

June 21, 2020

From fresh insight into the capture and control on Earth of fusion energy that drives the sun and stars, to the launch of pioneering new initiatives, groundbreaking research and discoveries have marked the past year at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). The Laboratory has advanced on all fronts and is expanding into new ones, and Quest reports on all the excitement around these activities in the 2020 edition.

Highly productive

June 18, 2020

Matthew Kunz, an assistant professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University and a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) five-year grant to research magnetic fields throughout the early universe and to establish a summer school on plasma physics aimed at attracting women and underrepresented minorities to the field.

June 16, 2020

All efforts to replicate in tokamak fusion facilities the fusion energy that powers the sun and stars must cope with a constant problem — transient heat bursts that can halt fusion reactions and damage the doughnut-shaped tokamaks. These bursts, called edge localized modes (ELMs), occur at the edge of hot, charged plasma gas when it kicks into high gear to fuel fusion reactions.

June 11, 2020

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has launched engineering design activity on several plasma diagnostic systems for ITER, the international fusion experiment now under construction in France. When installed on the ITER tokamak, these diagnostics will allow scientists to make measurements needed to understand the behavior of the hot super-charged gas called plasma under fusion conditions in which ITER will produce for the first time a self-sustaining or burning plasma.  

June 8, 2020

Elizabeth Paul, developer of a groundbreaking method for optimizing magnetic confinement stellarator fusion facilities, has won a Princeton University Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to advance the method at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).

June 2, 2020

As the Earth orbits the sun, it plows through a stream of fast-moving particles that can interfere with satellites and global positioning systems. Now, a team of scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Princeton University has reproduced a process that occurs in space to deepen understanding of what happens when the Earth encounters this solar wind.

May 28, 2020

Vincent Graber, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering at Lehigh University, has won a highly competitive award from the U.S Department of Energy (DOE) that he will use to conduct research at the DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) on the design of a critical device to help bring the fusion energy that powers the sun and stars to Earth.

May 26, 2020

Blobs can wreak havoc in plasma required for fusion reactions. This bubble-like turbulence swells up at the edge of fusion plasmas and drains heat from the edge, limiting the efficiency of fusion reactions in doughnut-shaped fusion facilities called “tokamaks.” Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have now discovered a surprising correlation of the blobs with fluctuations of the magnetic field that confines the plasma fueling fusion reactions in the device core. 

New aspect of understanding

May 22, 2020

A major roadblock to producing safe, clean and abundant fusion energy on Earth is the lack of detailed understanding of how the hot, charged plasma gas that fuels fusion reactions behaves at the edge of fusion facilities called “tokamaks.” Recent breakthroughs by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have advanced understanding of the behavior of the highly complex plasma edge in doughnut-shaped tokamaks on the road to capturing the fusion energy that powers the sun and stars.

May 18, 2020
Mike Bonkalski’s decades of experience at national labs

Mike Bonkalski, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s (PPPL) new head of Environment, Safety, and Health (ES&H), brings almost 30 years of experience at two national laboratories to the position that oversees health and safety at a crucial time for the Laboratory as it begins several major projects.

Bonkalski begins his new position in the midst of the curtailment of operations at PPPL during the coronavirus pandemic. Bonkalski is communicating remotely from 829 miles away in Geneva, Illinois, with his staff of 48 people in New Jersey.

May 8, 2020

David Graves, an internationally-known chemical engineer, has been named to lead a new research enterprise that will explore plasma applications in nanotechnology for everything from semiconductor manufacturing to the next generation of super-fast quantum computers.

April 28, 2020

A key challenge to capturing and controlling fusion energy on Earth is maintaining the stability of plasma — the electrically charged gas that fuels fusion reactions — and keeping it millions of degrees hot to launch and maintain fusion reactions.

April 22, 2020

Ian Ochs, a graduate student in the Program in Plasma Physics, has won a Porter Ogden Jacobus Fellowship, the most prestigious of the honorific fellowships that the University awards annually for academic excellence. The award goes to only one student in each of the four graduate school divisions — humanities, social sciences, natural and physical sciences, and engineering. 

April 15, 2020

A key issue for scientists seeking to bring the fusion that powers the sun and stars to Earth is forecasting the performance of the volatile plasma that fuels fusion reactions. Making such predictions calls for considerable costly time on the world’s fastest supercomputers. Now researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have borrowed a technique from applied mathematics to accelerate the process.

April 8, 2020

Carefully manipulating the outer skin of plasma can create cascades of effects that help create the stability needed to sustain fusion reactions, scientists have found. The research, led by physicist Dylan Brennan of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), could provide insight into the physics required to stabilize plasma in doughnut-shaped fusion facilities known as tokamaks. These include ITER, the multinational facility being built in France to demonstrate the practicality of fusion power.

April 2, 2020

Mercury, the planet nearest the sun, shares with Earth the distinction of being one of the two mountainous planets in the solar system with a global magnetic field that shields it from cosmic rays and the solar wind. Now researchers, led by physicist Chuanfei Dong of the Princeton University Center for Heliophysics and the U.S.

March 31, 2020

Scientists seeking to bring the fusion that powers the sun and stars to Earth must deal with sawtooth instabilities — up-and-down swings in the central pressure and temperature of the plasma that fuels fusion reactions, similar to the serrated blades of a saw.  If these swings are large enough, they can lead to the sudden collapse of the entire discharge of the plasma.  Such swings were first observed in 1974 and have so far eluded a widely accepted theory that explains experimental observations.

Consistent with observations

March 19, 2020

Creating and controlling on Earth the fusion energy that powers the sun and stars is a key goal of scientists around the world. Production of this safe, clean and limitless energy could generate electricity for all humanity, and the possibility is growing closer to reality. Now a landmark report released this week by the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics Community Planning Process proposes immediate steps for the United States to take to accelerate U.S.

March 17, 2020

An international team of scientists led by a graduate student at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has demonstrated the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the same computing concept that will empower self-driving cars, to predict and avoid disruptions — the sudden release of energy stored in the plasma that fuels fusion reactions  — that can halt the reactions and severely damage fusion facilities.

Risk of disruptions

March 13, 2020

In an abundance of caution around the coronavirus pandemic, and in light of presumptive cases in the Princeton area, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is curtailing o

In an abundance of caution around the coronavirus pandemic, and in light of presumptive cases in the Princeton area, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is curtailing operations and sending employees home to work effective 5 p.m. today, Friday, March 13, until at least March 29, Laboratory Director Steve Cowley announced today. There are no presumptive cases at the Laboratory.

March 11, 2020

Permanent magnets akin to those used on refrigerators could speed the development of fusion energy – the same energy produced by the sun and stars.

In principle, such magnets can greatly simplify the design and production of twisty fusion facilities called stellarators, according to scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Greifswald, Germany. PPPL founder Lyman Spitzer Jr. invented the stellarator in the early 1950s.

March 10, 2020

Researchers have found that injecting pellets of hydrogen ice rather than puffing hydrogen gas improves fusion performanceat the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, which General Atomics operates for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The studies by physicists based at DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) compared the two methods, looking ahead to the fueling that will be used in ITER, the international fusion experiment under construction in France.

Improve the temperature

February 26, 2020

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create an innovative technique to improve the prediction of disruptions in fusion energy devices — a grand challenge in the effort to capture on Earth the fusion reactions that power the sun and stars.

February 24, 2020

A key hurdle facing fusion devices called stellarators — twisty facilities that seek to harness on Earth the fusion reactions that power the sun and stars — has been their limited ability to maintain the heat and performance of the plasma that fuels those reactions. Now collaborative research by scientists at the U.S.

February 20, 2020

Magnetic field lines that wrap around the Earth protect our planet from cosmic rays. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have now found that beams of fast-moving particles launched toward Earth from a satellite could help map the precise shape of the field.

February 18, 2020
Local rivals among state-wide competitors for championship

Like most teams preparing for a big competition, the 16 middle school teams and 32 high school teams coming to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) on Feb. 21 and 22 are drilling their hardest, discussing strategy, and getting pep talks from their coaches.

February 12, 2020

A long-standing puzzle in space science is what triggers fast magnetic reconnection, an explosive process that unfolds throughout the universe more rapidly than theory says it should. Solving the puzzle could enable scientists to better understand and anticipate the process, which ignites solar flares and magnetic space storms that can disrupt cell phone service and black out power grids on Earth.

January 22, 2020

Turbulence — the unruly swirling of fluid and air that mixes coffee and cream and can rattle airplanes in flight — causes heat loss that weakens efforts to reproduce on Earth the fusion that powers the sun and stars. Now scientists have modeled a key source of the turbulence found in a fusion experiment at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), paving the way for improving similar experiments to capture and control fusion energy.

State of the art simulations

January 15, 2020

Researchers led by C.S. Chang of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have been awarded major supercomputer time to address key issues for ITER, the international experiment under construction in France to demonstrate the practicality of fusion energy. The award, from the DOE’s Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program, renews the third and final year of the team’s supercomputer allocation for the current round.

Among the largest awards

January 10, 2020

Scientists often make progress by coming up with new ways to look at old problems. That has happened at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), where physicists have used a simple insight to capture the complex effects of many high-frequency waves in a fusion plasma. These waves can force hot particles to escape from a fusion reactor, potentially impairing fusion energy production and damaging the reactor walls.

January 6, 2020

Science enthusiasts will get a jolt of excitement along with their coffee at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s (PPPL) Ronald E. Hatcher Science on Saturday lecture series, which debuts Jan. 11. 

The first talk in the series will be “Visual Perception and the Art of the Brain,” by Sabine Kastner, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Princeton University. 

January 2, 2020

Arms control robots, a new national facility, and accelerating the drive to bring the fusion energy that powers the sun and stars to Earth. These far-reaching achievements at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) made 2019 another remarkable year. Research at the only national laboratory devoted to fusion and plasma physics — the state of matter that makes up 99 percent of the visible universe — broke new ground in varied fields as vast as astrophysics and as tiny as nanotechnology.

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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