Pause video ￭ From left: Computer simulation of plasma creation on the NSTX-U tokamak; cold helium plasma jets for gas-flow disinfection from our Low Temperature Plasma Laboratory; schematic of a stellarator with 3D twisted plasma The development of fusion energy as a sustainable energy source was the founding mission of PPPL in 1951 and remains the guiding star of the Lab. Our research has produced breakthroughs into the scientific basis for producing fusion energy and has developed rich insights into the nature and uses of plasma — the fourth state of matter that makes up 99 percent of the visible universe — in fields ranging from astrophysics to nanotechnology. Our fusion research starts with the advancement of the spherical tokamak as a reduced-cost magnetic fusion device. Image: Perspective view of the magnetic field that surrounds the planet Uranus Perspective view of the Uranian magnetosphere from a ten-moment multifluid simulation Early concept of a permanent magnet stellarator with permanent magnets in red and blue But we don’t stop there. Our work is integral to the success of the ITER tokamak and burning plasmas, and to the design of next-step fusion devices including pilot plants – a national priority outlined by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. We are improving fusion through innovations in shaping and plasma composition, and in the creative use of powerful magnets to confine hot plasmas. We further our mission by developing advanced low-temperature plasma applications ranging from nanofabrication for microelectronics to plasma thrusters for space travel to help maintain U.S. economic and technological competitiveness. And finally, we strive to understand the plasma universe from the lab to the cosmos. Plasma applications embrace everything from fusion to the fabrication of microchips as highlighted below. The team developing the spherical National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade, PPPL’s fusion device, is advancing the physics and engineering basis for a next-step fusion reactor based on the spherical design. Operating in parallel is the Lithium Tokamak Experiment - Beta, which studies the beneficial effects of lithium on energy confinement in fusion reactors. The PPPL Theory Department explores the scientific basis for harvesting fusion with state-of-the-art computational resources and investigates plasma in all its forms. PPPL plays a role in the operation and research direction of other tokamaks around the country and the world, including the leading international tokamak collaboration, ITER, under construction in France. The second most studied magnetic confinement fusion concept, the stellarator, was invented at PPPL by its founder, Lyman Spitzer. Concepts now being developed at the Laboratory include the Permanent Magnet Stellarator under study in the Advanced Projects department and our scientists collaborate closely with stellarator projects throughout the world. Also critical to the development or magnetic fusion energy are science and engineering projects that encompass auxiliary heating, advanced diagnostics, plasma facing components, and magnet technology. Following are close-up looks at major aspects of the Laboratory’s work. Science of Nanoscale Fabrication PPPL conducts world-leading research and development into low-temperature plasma, which is used to create a broad range of advanced technologies. From a new generation of powerful computer microchips that will be based on the principles of quantum mechanics to new techniques for the construction of semiconductors, the technology being explored at PPPL could have a large economic impact on the United States and around the world. Laboratory for Plasma Nanosynthesis (LPN) This leading facility is a collaboration with Princeton University that enables scientists to use plasma to manipulate materials at the nanoscale level, the size of billionths of a meter. Doing so can help create microscopic structures like carbon nanotubes, far stronger than steel, to replace silicon in computer chips and improve performance. The LPN is also involved in PPPL’s new Quantum Materials and Devices (QMD) research program. QMD is focused on the synthesis of plasma to develop the fabrication of quantum computer chips and the creation of specialized crystals for quantum sensors. Princeton Collaborative Low Temperature Plasma Research Facility (PCRF) PCRF is a joint venture involving PPPL and Princeton University providing researchers with access to world-class diagnostics and computational tools for measuring and experimenting with low-temperature plasmas. Also underway are collaborations between PPPL and two leading manufacturers of processing equipment used to fabricate semiconductors. These collaborations aim to develop advanced computation and state-of-the-art plasma diagnostics to fabricate semiconductors at the atomic scale. Filtered image of an atmospheric pressure carbon arc produced for synthesis of carbon nanotubes Physicist Jongsoo Yoo with Magnetic Reconnection Experiment and visualizations of Earth's magnetosphere Computer rendering of a simulation of magnetic reconnection in FLARE. Simulation by physicists Adam Stanier and Bill Daughton of Los Alamos National Laboratory with rendering by PPPL physicist Jonathan Jara-Almonte Frontiers of Plasma Science Plasma, the state of matter that makes up 99% of the visible universe, plays a role in everything from the production of microscopic semiconductors to the formation of stars and planets. Fusion research leads to many novel plasma physics breakthroughs. A major topic in astrophysics is magnetic reconnection, which plays an important role in all aspects of magnetic plasmas including fusion reactors, solar flares and earth’s auroras, among many others. The Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX) is dedicated to studying magnetic reconnection in the laboratory. The Facility for Laboratory Reconnection Experiment (FLARE) is MRX’s successor. FLARE has a significantly larger experimental volume, enabling researchers to create a more faithful representation of reconnection in astrophysical plasmas. The Magnetorotational Instability Experiment (MRI) is studying the angular momentum transport of plasma in accretion discs by using rotating liquid metals. In support of the experiments, astrophysical observations, and analytical approaches, PPPL is developing state-of-the-art computational resources to help tackle these myriad plasma systems.