New lab-scale organization advances development of fusion energy science at PPPL

Newswise – Renowned physicist Rajesh Maingi has been named to lead a new lab-scale effort to capture and control in doughnut-shaped fusion facilities called tokamaks the vast power that drives the sun and stars. The vast new unit at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) “will facilitate movement and collaboration among all PPPL departments and divisions developing tokamak science,” Maingi said.

The structure folds into what had been the ITER and Tokamaks department which collaborated with ITER, the international experiment under construction in France, as well as publicly funded tokamaks in the United States and abroad. These collaborations are now within the new unit, which is called Tokamak Experimental Sciences (TES).

The reorganization aims to strengthen PPPL’s ​​role as the US national laboratory dedicated to fusion energy science. “The main objectives of this reorganization include improving coordination and flexibility in staffing domestic and international tokamak experimental research at PPPL, preparing for ITER research and operations, and participating to the tokamak smelting pilot plant design activities that will be conducted by national teams in the United States,” said Jon Menard, PPPL Deputy Director of Research, who led the redesign.

The new position draws on the extensive knowledge of tokamak science of Maingi, a renowned expert on the critical interaction of plasma, the hot, charged gas that powers fusion reactions, with the plasma-facing material in tokamaks. . Joining Maingi as deputy head of TES is Joseph Snipes, who comes to PPPL from his role as a scientist at ITER and will start at PPPL on August 29, 2022.

The following PPPL units are now included in TES:

National Spherical Torus Experiment Upgrade (NSTX-U), PPPL’s ​​flagship fusion facility. This department designs, executes, and analyzes NSTX-U experiments to test the ability of the compact spherical device to function as a cost-effective source of fusion energy that could serve as a model for a pilot fusion plant.

The Lithium Tokamak-Beta (LTX-β) experiment. Experiments on this small, recently upgraded tokamak coat the plasma-facing walls of the device with liquid lithium to test the coating’s ability to hold plasma heat and shield the walls of the facility.

Tokamak Public and Private collaborations. This division collaborates with tokamak units formerly under ITER and Tokamaks and can partner with private fusion energy developers. Public partners include the Joint European Torus (JET) in the UK; the Advanced Experimental Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) in China; and the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) device in South Korea.

In recognition of the growing collaborations on spherical tokamaks outside of PPPL, a new Spherical Tokamak Research Collaborations Coordinator position was also developed. Physicist Jack Berkery will join PPPL from Columbia University to take on this new role and other research activities beginning July 1, 2022.

The National DIII-D Fusion Facility. This tokamak, which General Atomics operates for the DOE in San Diego, was part of the ITER and Tokamaks department and is now a separate division of TES. The DIII-D began operation in 1986 and is the largest tokamak in the United States

Coordination of ITER research and operations. This new coordination role to be filled will support the formation of the US ITER team and improve the coordination between physics and engineering activities for the ITER diagnostics for which PPPL is responsible and contribute to other TES activities.

TRANSP project. PPPL enhances the capabilities and user support of this tokamak simulation code, long the global standard for prediction and analysis of fusion experiments, to make it easier for ITER and tokamak partners to operate.

For Maingi, this new position marks the last senior position of a distinguished career. He is currently a Principal Investigator for the DOE’s National Liquid Metal Plasma Coating Component Development Program, which is included in the new TES structure, and served as Deputy Head of the NSTX-U Science Department, Acting Head of the ITER Department. and Tokamaks. , and researcher in boundary physics and liquid metals in tokamaks, a position he still holds within the NSTX-U department.

A member of the American Physics and American Nuclear Societies, Maingi has chaired or co-chaired numerous national and international conferences, given more than 100 major presentations at conferences and technical seminars, and has authored as first author 35 papers in articles. of peer-reviewed journals or a book. chapters while co-authoring approximately 1000 articles and presentations.

“This new department will eliminate the piping of stoves where groups and individuals work in isolation,” he said. “We are all working together to advance the development of fusion energy science.”

PPPL, at Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, NJ, is dedicated to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas – ultra-hot, charged gases – and developing practical solutions for creating energy of merger. The lab is operated by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, which is the largest supporter of basic physical science research in the United States and works to address some of the most pressing challenges From our era. For more information, visit

Virginia S. Braud