Felix Parra Diaz

Felix Parra Diaz Spotlight

World renowned physicist Felix Parra Diaz, who has won high honors on both sides of the Atlantic, heads our Theory Department. A plasma physicist and theoretician, Parra Diaz comes here to help leverage the Laboratory's unique strength in plasma theory to advance the development of fusion pilot plants.

Theory Group

Members of the PPPL Theory Department relax during a break.

Fatima Ebrahimi - Physicist

Fatima Ebrahimi, Physicist

Understanding Plasma Behavior

Insights of the Theory Department have helped to provide key advances in the development of fusion energy. Theoretical findings of the turbulent behavior of magnetically confined plasma that fuels fusion reactions contribute to the improved control and stability of such plasmas. New physics-based models of plasma behavior are expected to lead to continuing improvement in the design of new fusion facilities.

To Mars... and Beyond!

A fusion-powered rocket could reach the Red Planet in 90 days or less, according to estimates, as compared with eight months for conventional propulsion and the cosmos beyond would lie open. Our scientists are exploring the use of fusion energy to drive spaceships to planets throughout the solar system and beyond, potentially leading to interstellar travel.

In the Theory Department, physicist Fatima Ebrahimi has proposed a concept that exploits the mechanism behind solar flares to produce fusion propulsion. Her concept creates what is called magnetic reconnection, a process that occurs throughout the universe, to accelerate plasma particles into high-velocity thrust that can bring the far-reaches of space closer. Elsewhere at the Laboratory, physicist Sam Cohen is developing a system called Direct Fusion Drive to power an interplanetary rocket. His concept, based on the cylindrical fusion reactor that Cohen has been creating, would deliver both propulsion and electrical power. In these and other cases, our scientists are using physics to find ways to benefit humankind. 

Fatima Plasmoid Collage

Artist rendering of a fusion-powered spacecraft en route to Mars. The PPPL fusion concept exploits the mechanism behind solar flares to sharply reduce travel time and bring the outer planets within the reach of humans. 

Simulated turbulence in a tokamak.

Simulated turbulence in a tokamak

Modeling Plasma

The impressive record of the Theory Department in creating seminal computer models of plasma behavior is matched by its development and maintenance of the most comprehensive system of computer codes for analyzing the complex twists and turns of turbulent superhot plasmas driven by electromagnetic forces. These achievements have received widespread endorsements and requests for enhanced collaborations from the national and international fusion research communities.