Advanced Projects

permanent magnets

Early concept of a permanent magnet stellarator with permanent magnets in red and blue.

Physicist David Gates

Physicist David Gates with design for a permanent magnet stellarator (Collage by Elle Starkman/Office of Communications)

Permanent Magnets

Forging ahead in Advanced Projects is the path-setting development of permanent magnets to greatly simplify the design and production of twisty fusion facilities called stellarators, which run without risk of the damaging disruptions that more widely used doughnut-shaped tokamaks face. The innovative permanent magnets would be far more powerful than those people put on refrigerator doors and could substantially increase the attractiveness of stellarators as an alternative source of safe and clean power to generate electricity for mankind.

Stellarators – the twisty coiled device designed to help produce fusion – is the primary focus of Advanced Projects. The stellarator concept was invented at PPPL by Lyman Spitzer, who founded the Lab in the 1950s, and is the leading magnetic confinement device after tokamaks. Advanced Projects include international collaborations with Germany’s Wendelstein 7-X and Japan’s Large Helical Device, the two major stellarator facilities in the world.

Researchers are developing the technology required for permanent magnets for the complex 3D shaping necessary for stellarators, which represents a transformative effort to radically simplify their construction.

Other activities range from investigating the science of stellarator optimization and developing a vision for a stellarator fusion reactor, to supporting major code development for stellarators. 

Also, nuclear non-proliferation activities conducted by physicist Rob Goldston, a Princeton University professor of astrophysical sciences and former director of PPPL, are part of this department. Included among these activities are continuing development of a  “Zero Knowledge Protocol” for warhead verification, and a robotic neutron detector to reveal the presence of undeclared nuclear material or activities. Further included in this work are analyses of non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament issues.



Pattern of magnetic field lines in the W7-X stellarator