Press Releases Archive
The sun defies conventional scientific understanding. Its upper atmosphere, known as the corona, is many millions of degrees hotter than its surface. Astrophysicists are keen to learn why the corona is so hot, and scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have completed research that may advance the search.
Major developments in the use of lithium to improve the performance of fusion plasmas — the hot, charged state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei that fuels fusion reactions — have earned a trio of physicists the 2018 outstanding research awards from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). Scientists around the world are seeking to replicate on Earth the fusion that drives the sun and stars to produce a virtually inexhaustible supply of energy to generate electricity.
he U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded major computer hours on three leading supercomputers, including the world’s fastest, to a team led by C.S. Chang of the DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). The team is addressing issues that must be resolved for successful operation of ITER, the international experiment under construction in France to demonstrate the feasibility of producing fusion energy — the power that drives the sun and stars — in a magnetically controlled fusion facility called a “tokamak.”
As on Earth, so in space. A four-satellite mission that is studying magnetic reconnection — the breaking apart and explosive reconnection of the magnetic field lines in plasma that occurs throughout the universe — has found key aspects of the process in space to be strikingly similar to those found in experiments at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). The similarities show how the studies complement each other: The laboratory captures important global features of reconnection and the spacecraft documents local key properties as they occur.
“It’s just all been fun, and this is the most fun job I’ve ever had,” Steve Cowley says of his much-decorated career and his new position, which he assumed July 1, as the seventh director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) — the place where the British-born physicist earned his doctorate and that he calls “the most important fusion laboratory in the world.”
Knighted in October
More than 135 researchers and students from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) presented their latest findings at the 60th annual meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics — a worldwide gathering focused on fundamental plasma science research and discoveries. Some 1,700 participants from more than two dozen countries joined the November 5-to-9 event in Portland, Oregon, presenting posters and talks on topics ranging from astrophysical plasmas to nanotechnology to magnetic confinement fusion experiments.
Contrary to what many people believe, outer space is not empty. In addition to an electrically charged soup of ions and electrons known as plasma, space is permeated by magnetic fields with a wide range of strengths. Astrophysicists have long wondered how those fields are produced, sustained, and magnified. Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have shown that plasma turbulence might be responsible, providing a possible answer to what has been called one of the most important unsolved problems in plasma astrophysics.
Magnetic forces ripple throughout the universe, from the fields surrounding planets to the gasses filling galaxies, and can be launched by a phenomenon called the Biermann battery effect. Now scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have found that this phenomenon may not only generate magnetic fields, but can sever them to trigger magnetic reconnection – a remarkable and surprising discovery.
Just as fire produces ash, the combining of light elements in fusion reactions can produce material that eventually interferes with those same reactions. Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have found evidence suggesting that a process could remove the unwanted material and make the fusion processes more efficient within a type of fusion facility known as a field-reversed configuration (FRC) device.
Rich Hawryluk, an internationally-known physicist who served as interim director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) for 10 months until Steve Cowley was named director, has been named by Cowley as interim deputy director for operations and chief operating officer.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) on Oct. 5 presented the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) with an engraved plaque designating the Laboratory an ASME historic mechanical engineering landmark for its achievements in the quest to develop magnetically controlled fusion energy. The ASME, which “promotes the art, science and practice of multidisciplinary engineering and allied sciences around the globe,” recognized the Laboratory for its entire body of mechanical engineering achievements since 1951.
Physicist Sam Cohen of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and local company Princeton Satellite Systems have won a Federal Laboratory Consortium award for their joint efforts on a rocket propulsion technology at the Sept. 13 meeting of the Northeast Regional Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) at PPPL
The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory has won a national award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recognizing the Laboratory’s leadership and continuous improvement in buying sustainable products. It was the fourth award PPPL has received in the past year for its sustainable practices.
Magnetic reconnection, the snapping apart and violent reconnection of magnetic field lines in plasma — the state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei — occurs throughout the universe and can whip up space storms that disrupt cell phone service and knock out power grids. Now scientists at the U.S.
Companies dealing with liquids ranging from wastewater to molten metals could benefit from a prize-winning device developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Princeton University. The device is an improved rotating Lorentz-force flowmeter (RLFF), which measures the rate at which fluids move through pipes and tubes.
Nat Fisch, associate director for academic affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), and professor of astrophysical sciences and director of the Program in Plasma Physics at Princeton University, has received a 2018 Distinguished Career Award from Fusion Power Associates (FPA). The FPA is a research and educational foundation that provides students, media and the public with information about the status of fusion development and other applications of plasma science.
If you think plasma thrusters are found only in science fiction, think again. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have been uncovering the physics behind these high-tech engines, which maneuver satellites in space. New research involving computer simulations gives physicists confidence that they can peer into the inner workings of these machines.
The story of Joel Hosea’s career is the story of PPPL. The Laboratory, founded as Project Matterhorn in 1951, had only been called the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) for seven years when Hosea began work there in 1968. He worked at many of the Laboratory’s major experiments and devoted his 50-year career to research at PPPL and around the world.
Hosea died on Aug. 25, just a day after beginning treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He was 79.
Fusion, the power that drives the sun and stars, produces massive amounts of energy. Scientists here on Earth seek to replicate this process, which merges light elements in the form of hot, charged plasma composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei, to create a virtually inexhaustible supply of power to generate electricity in what may be called a “star in a jar.”
Graduate physics students from across the country recently descended on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) for the first PPPL Graduate Summer School — a series of lectures the week of Aug. 13 on topics in the field of plasma physics and an opportunity to meet other students with similar research interests. “The objective was to bring graduate students from all over the country to the Lab so we could share some of what goes on here with them,” said Arturo Dominguez, PPPL’s science education senior program leader who led the event.
To capture and control the process of fusion that powers the sun and stars in facilities on Earth called tokamaks, scientists must confront disruptions that can halt the reactions and damage the doughnut-shaped devices. Now an artificial intelligence system under development at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Princeton University to predict and tame such disruptions has been selected as an Aurora Early Science project by the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, a DOE Office of Science User Facility.
They gathered in the lobby of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in dresses and suits, standing in front of posters showing computer-aided-design (CAD) drawings, mathematical equations, and line graphs, preparing to explain a summer of plasma physics research.
While most teenagers might have been spending the hot summer months at the beach, a dedicated crew of high school students devoted the past three months conducting physics and engineering research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). On August 8, 15 high school students from the New Jersey area and around the country who had participated in the 10-week high school internship program presented their findings in a poster session.
Inside your home and office, low-voltage alternating current (AC) powers the lights, computers and electronic devices for everyday use. But when the electricity comes from remote long-distance sources such as hydro-power or solar generating plants, transporting it as direct current (DC) is more efficient — and converting it back to AC current requires bulky and expensive switches. Now the General Electric (GE) company, with assistance from scientists at the U.S.
The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s (PPPL) mission of doing research to develop fusion as a viable source of energy is vital to the future of the planet, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said during an Aug. 9 visit.
“It’s important not just to PPPL, not just to the DOE (Department of Energy) but to the world,” Perry told staff members during an all-hands meeting. “If we’re able to deliver fusion energy to the world, we’re able to change the world forever.”
The sixth Annual Theory and Simulation of Disruptions Workshop at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) made substantial progress toward planning a system for mitigating disruptions on ITER, the international experiment under construction in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power. Disruptions, the sudden loss of heat in plasma that halts fusion reactions, can seriously damage ITER and other doughnut-shaped fusion facilities called tokamaks, and are among the major challenges facing the international experiment.
Scientists led by Stephen Jardin, principal research physicist and head of the Computational Plasma Physics Group at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), have won 40 million core hours of supercomputer time to simulate plasma disruptions that can halt fusion reactions and damage fusion facilities, so that scientists can learn how to stop them. The PPPL team will apply its findings to ITER, the international tokamak under construction in France to demonstrate the practicality of fusion energy.
Sawtooth swings — up-and-down ripples found in everything from stock prices on Wall Street to ocean waves — occur periodically in the temperature and density of the plasma that fuels fusion reactions in doughnut-shaped facilities called tokamaks. These swings can sometimes combine with other instabilities in the plasma to produce a perfect storm that halts the reactions. However, some plasmas are free of sawtooth gyrations thanks to a mechanism that has long puzzled physicists.
Seth Davidovits, a 2017 graduate of the Program in Plasma Physics in the Princeton University Department of Astrophysical Sciences, has won the 2018 Marshall N. Rosenbluth Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award presented by the American Physical Society (APS). The award, named for distinguished plasma physicist Marshall Rosenbluth, whose career included 13 years at the U.S.
When Germany’s Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) fusion facility set a world record for stellarators recently, a finely tuned instrument built and delivered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) proved the achievement. The record strongly suggests that the design of the stellarator can be developed to capture on Earth the fusion that drives the sun and stars, creating “a star in a jar” to generate a virtually unlimited supply of electric energy.
From analyzing solar flares to pursuing “a star in a jar” to produce virtually limitless electric power, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have developed insights and discoveries over the past year that advance understanding of the universe and the prospect for safe, clean, and abundant energy for all humankind.
10 Questions for Steven Cowley, new Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Physicists Dr. Nate Ferraro and Dr. Sam Lazerson of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have each won 2018 Early Career Research Program awards sponsored by the DOE Office of Science. The two five-year awards will fund PPPL research that could lead to development of the best designs for doughnut-shaped tokamaks and twisty stellarators — the main magnetic-bottles employed worldwide in the effort to produce virtually inexhaustible fusion power on Earth using the reactions that drive the sun and stars.
Magnetic islands, bubble-like structures that form in fusion plasmas, can grow and disrupt the plasmas and damage the doughnut-shaped tokamak facilities that house fusion reactions. Recent research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has used large-scale computer simulations to produce a new model that could be key to understanding how the islands interact with the surrounding plasma as they grow and lead to disruptions.
PRINCETON, New Jersey (June 6, 2018) – The 23rd International Conference on Plasma Surface Interactions in Controlled Fusion Devices – the preeminent biennial research conference in this field – begins on June 17 and continues for six days.
Any solid surface immersed within a plasma, including those in satellite engines and fusion reactors, is surrounded by a layer of electrical charge that determines the interaction between the surface and the plasma. Understanding the nature of this contact, which can affect the performance of the devices, often hinges on understanding how electrical charge is distributed around the surface. Now, recent research by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) indicates a way to more accurately measure these electrical properties.
A team of scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has won a DOE Office of Science award to develop new X-ray diagnostics for WEST — the Tungsten (W) Environment in Steady-state Tokamak — in Cadarache, France. The three-year, $1-million award will support construction of two new devices at PPPL, plus collaboration with French scientists and deployment of a post-doctoral researcher to test the installed devices at CAE Laboratories, the home of the WEST facility.
Scientists seeking to bring fusion — the power that drives the sun and stars — down to Earth must first make the state of matter called plasma superhot enough to sustain fusion reactions. That calls for heating the plasma to many times the temperature of the core of the sun. In ITER, the international fusion facility being built in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power, the device will heat both the free electrons and the atomic nuclei — or ions — that make up the plasma.
Physicist William Tang has won a highly competitive $100,000 Global Impact Award from NVIDIA Corp., the leading producer of graphics processing units (GPUs) for carrying out artificial intelligence (AI) computing. This award was one of two presented at the NVIDIA national GPU technology conference held March 26-29 in San Jose, California.
A team of U.S. and German scientists has used a system of large magnetic “trim” coils designed and delivered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) to achieve high performance in the latest round of experiments on the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) stellarator. The German machine, the world’s largest and most advanced stellarator, is being used to explore the scientific basis for fusion energy and test the suitability of the stellarator design for future fusion power plants.
Halo currents — electrical currents that flow from the hot, charged plasma that fuels fusion reactions and strike the walls of fusion facilities — could damage the walls of fusion devices like ITER, the international experiment under construction in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power.
Birds do it and so do doughnut-shaped fusion facilities called “tokamaks.” But tokamak chirping— a rapidly changing frequency wave that can be far above what the human ear can detect — is hardly welcome to researchers who seek to bring the fusion that powers the sun and stars to Earth. Such chirping signals a loss of heat that can slow fusion reactions, a loss that has long puzzled scientists.
A millisecond burst of light on a computer monitor signaled production of the first plasma in a powerful new device for advancing research into magnetic reconnection — a critical but little understood process that occurs throughout the universe. The first plasma, a milestone event signaling the beginning of research capabilities, was captured on camera on Sunday, March 4, at 8:13 p.m. at Jadwin Hall at Princeton University, and marked completion of the four-year construction of the device, the Facility for Laboratory Reconnection Experiment (FLARE).
A key challenge in fusion research is maintaining the stability of the hot, charged plasma that fuels fusion reactions inside doughnut-shaped facilities called “tokamaks.” Physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), have recently found that drifting particles in the plasma, which consists of free electrons and atomic nuclei, can forestall instabilities that reduce the pressure crucial to high-performance fusion reactions inside these facilities.
Nanoparticles, superstrong and flexible structures such as carbon nanotubes that are measured in billionths of a meter — a diameter thousands of times thinner than a human hair — are used in everything from microchips to sporting goods to pharmaceutical products. But large-scale production of high-quality particles faces challenges ranging from improving the selectivity of the synthesis that creates them and the quality of the synthesized material to the development of economical and reliable synthesis processes.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have discovered key conditions that give rise to fast magnetic reconnection, the process that triggers solar flares, auroras, and geomagnetic storms that can disrupt signal transmissions and other electrical activities, including cell phone service. The process occurs when the magnetic field lines in plasma, the hot, charged state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei, break apart and violently reconnect, releasing vast amounts of energy.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, the largest U.S. supporter of basic research in the physical sciences, celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding in 2017. To mark the 40th anniversary of Office of Science support for the country’s national laboratories and basic research at universities and private industry, the DOE has compiled 40 milestone papers that represent what the Department calls “a cream-of-the crop selection that has changed the face of science.”
Clayton Myers, a 2015 graduate of the Program in Plasma Physics in the Princeton Department of Astrophysical Sciences who did his research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), has won the 2018 Dissertation Prize awarded by the Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Myers, now a physicist at Sandia National Laboratory, received the award for his work on the Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX) at PPPL.
A key goal for ITER, the international fusion device under construction in France, will be to produce 10 times more power than goes into it to heat the hot, charged plasma that sustains fusion reactions. Among the steps needed to reach that goal will be controlling instabilities called “neoclassical tearing modes” that can cause magnetic islands to grow in the plasma and shut down those reactions.
You may be most familiar with the element lithium as an integral component of your smart phone’s battery, but the element also plays a role in the development of clean fusion energy. When used on tungsten surfaces in fusion devices, lithium can reduce periodic instabilities in plasma that can damage the reactor walls, scientists have found.
Elena Belova, a principal research physicist in the Theory Department at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), has been named to the editorial board of the Physics of Plasmas, a monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the American Institute of Physics. Duties of board members, selected for their high degree of technical expertise, range from suggesting topics for special sections to adjudicating impasses between authors and referees that arise over manuscripts.
David Johnson and Charles Skinner, principal research physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), have been appointed to three-year terms as ITER Scientist Fellows. They will join a network of internationally recognized researchers who will consult with ITER, the international fusion experiment under construction in France, on plans and components for the project, which is designed to demonstrate the practicality of fusion energy.
Throughout 2017 researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have produced new insights into the science of fusion energy that powers the sun and stars and the physics of plasma, the hot, charged state of matter that consists of electrons and atomic nuclei, or ions, and makes up 99 percent of the visible universe. The research advances the development of fusion as a safe, clean and plentiful source of power, produced in doughnut-shaped facilities called tokamaks, and explores the diverse aspects and applications of plasma.
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