Dr. Terrence K. Brog (Photo by Elle Starkman/ PPPL)
From the Deputy Director for Operations at PPPL
This new issue of Quest begins with a novel application of special relativity that illuminates a long-standing plasma puzzle. The piece shows how PPPL researchers, in this case led by a graduate student, are taking flexible new approaches to traditional scientific problems.
Our physicists and engineers have made numerous advances during the past year. They work on a broad range of projects while the National Spherical Torus Experiment Upgrade (NSTX-U), our flagship fusion facility that delivered important results in its first campaign last year, undergoes repair. Among the advances that you will read about in this issue:
- Development of a unique instrument to gauge and help control the velocity of the rotating hot, charged plasma gas that fuels fusion reactions. Controlling the velocity of the gas will be critical for creating and sustaining reactions.
- Leadership of part of the Exascale Computing Project, a nationwide program to develop the next generation of supercomputers that will run 50 to 100 times faster than today’s fastest machines and will improve U.S. security, economic competitiveness and scientific capabilities. PPPL is working with researchers around the country to produce the first complete model of an entire fusion plasma. This will result in a more comprehensive and more accurate prediction of the crucial fusion fuel. For example, the model will reveal how the core of the plasma and the edge of the plasma interact at a fundamental level, providing a complete view of the behavior of the entire plasma volume.
- A new method for modeling the spinning cosmic plasma that fuels the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way. This enormous hole has a gravitational mass that is four million times greater than our own sun.
- Demonstration of a novel concept with the potential to facilitate future nuclear disarmament talks. The experiment distinguished “true” from “false” arrangements of different metals and the concept could be used with further development to differentiate actual from “spoof” nuclear warheads without gaining any classified or non-classified information.
- Confirmation of the remarkable accuracy of the magnetic fields produced by the Wendelstein 7-X facility in Germany, the world’s largest and most sophisticated stellarator facility. PPPL designed and delivered special coils that enabled the measurements by systematically perturbing the magnetic field configuration, and leads U.S. collaboration in experiments on the project.
We also have begun a 10-year program to modernize our campus to fully support our world-class research. I hope you enjoy reading about our scientific endeavors and can experience through these stories the sense of excitement we feel every day working at a national laboratory that has the potential to benefit all of humankind.
Quest Magazine was prepared and published by the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is managed by Princeton University for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.