Changing things up at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility

July 28, 2022, 12:06PMNuclear News
The new TRFS provides for automated adjustment of the direction of the DIII-D primary magnetic field. (Photos: GA and PPPL)

The DIII-D National Fusion Facility now boasts a unique automated system that allows for a quick reversal of the direction of its magnetic field, expanding the range of possible fusion experiments while reducing downtime. General Atomics, which operates the DIII-D for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, announced the new Toroidal Field Reversing Switch (TFRS) on July 26.

JET’s 2021 fusion achievement settles a bet more than three decades old

July 18, 2022, 3:04PMNuclear News
A plaque honoring JET’s world record–setting achievement of fusion energy production of 50 megajoules in a single shot (right) and commemorating a 34-year-old bet between Goldston (top left) and Jacquinot (bottom left). (Photo: PPPL and EUROfusion consortium/collage by Kiran Sudarsanan)

A wager struck by two plasma physicists 34 years ago was finally fulfilled in June during the opening day of the 48th European Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics, when Robert Goldston, former director of the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), virtually presented a plaque to his friend and colleague Jean Jacquinot, former director of the Joint European Torus (JET), EUROfusion's flagship fusion experiment based at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in the United Kingdom. Their bet, and JET’s record-breaking achievements in 2021, were celebrated in an article published by PPPL on July 8.

Ten private fusion companies get national lab and university access from INFUSE

July 7, 2022, 3:07PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy announced awards for 18 Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) projects on July 6 that link private fusion energy developers with DOE national laboratories (and, in a first for the program, with U.S. universities) to overcome scientific and technological challenges in fusion energy development. The 18 selected projects include representation from 10 private companies, three national labs, and eight universities.

NSTX-U could serve as the model for a pilot fusion plant, PPPL says

April 18, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
PPPL physicist Walter Guttenfelder with figures from the paper he coauthored with members of the NSTX-U team and 23 collaborative institutions worldwide. (Photo: Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications. Collage: Kiran Sudarsanan)

According to the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, recent simulations and analysis demonstrate that the design of its flagship fusion facility, the National Spherical Torus Experiment Upgrade (NSTX-U), which is currently under repair, could serve as a model for an economically attractive next-generation fusion pilot plant.

Fusion industry projects get federal funding in second-round FY 2021 awards

December 17, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy has selected eight private industry projects for fusion energy collaboration with DOE national laboratories. The awards are provided through the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE), which focuses on five areas of research: enabling technologies; materials; diagnostics; modeling and simulation; and experimental capabilities.

New model improves understanding of how heat moves through fusion plasmas

October 22, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Physicist Suying Jin with computer-generated images showing the properties of heat pulse propagation in plasma (Image: PPPL/Jin/Kiran Sudarsanan)

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have developed a new model of how heat flows within plasmas. According to PPPL, the model could improve insights into the behavior of plasmas and may help engineers avoid the conditions that could lead to heat loss in future fusion facilities.

AI-based model makes predicting fusion profiles faster

June 28, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

PPPL physicist Dan Boyer. (Photo: Amber Boyer/Kiran Sudarsanan)

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory are using machine learning to predict electron density and pressure profile shapes on the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U), the flagship fusion facility at PPPL that is currently under repair.

The hope is that such predictions, generated by artificial neural networks, could improve the ability of NSTX-U researchers to optimize the components of experiments that heat and shape the fusion plasma.

“This is a step toward what we should do to optimize the actuators,” said PPPL physicist Dan Boyer, author of the paper, “Prediction of electron density and pressure profile shapes on NSTX-U using neural networks,” published by Nuclear Fusion, a journal of the International Atomic Energy Agency. “Machine learning can turn historical data into a simple model that we can evaluate quickly enough to make decisions in the control room or even in real time during an experiment.”

Research confirms ingredient in household cleaner could improve fusion reactions

April 5, 2021, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Photos of physicist Alessandro Bortolon and the element boron; graph and photo showing the interior of a tokamak. Credit: Alexander Nagy and Alessandro Bortolon/Collage courtesy of Elle Starkman, PPPL

Research led by scientists at the Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) provides new evidence that particles of boron, the main ingredient in Borax household cleaner, can coat internal components of doughnut-shaped plasma devices known as tokamaks and improve the efficiency of the fusion reactions, according to an article published on on April 2.

DOE awards $17 million for research at Princeton fusion facility

September 10, 2020, 7:00AMNuclear News

The NSTX-U “umbrella.” Photo: Elle Starkman/ PPPL Office of Communications

The Department of Energy on September 8 announced funding for research at the National Spherical Tokamak Experiment Upgrade (NSTX-U), an Office of Science user facility at the DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J.

Total planned funding is $17 million for the NSTX-U work over five years in duration. As much as $6 million in fiscal year 2020 dollars and out-year funding could be available this year, contingent on congressional appropriations and satisfactory progress.

The initiative will support experiments, data analysis, and computer modeling and simulation of plasma behavior. A major focus will be on the start of laying the scientific groundwork for a next-generation facility through better understanding of the behavior of plasmas in spherical tokamaks, the DOE said.

New model stretches the limits of fusion torus control

August 17, 2020, 7:37AMNuclear News

PPPL physicists Raffi Nazikian (left) and Qiming Hu, with a figure from their research. Photo: PPPL/Elle Starkman

Stars contain their plasma with the force of gravity, but here on earth, plasma in fusion tokamaks must be magnetically confined. That confinement is tenuous, because tokamaks are subject to edge localized modes (ELM)—intense bursts of heat and particles that must be controlled to prevent instabilities and damage to the fusion reactor.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and at General Atomics (GA) recently published a paper in Physical Review Letters explaining this tokamak restriction and a potential path to overcome it. They have developed a new model for ELM suppression in the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, which is operated by GA for the DOE. PPPL physicists Qiming Hu and Raffi Nazikian are the lead authors of the paper, which was announced on August 10 by PPPL.