Plasma Physics Lab Makes Progress Towards Fusion Power

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory have made advances this year towards the long-term goal of making fusion power a viable source of electricity. The lab outlined various scientific achievements in Quest, its annual research magazine.

“Achievements range from discoveries of new ways to produce efficient fusion reactions to insights into the process that triggers northern lights, solar flares, and violent geomagnetic storms that can disrupt cell phone service and electrical grids,” wrote Steve Cowley, PPPL director, in the annual magazine, published in July.

Among the stories are descriptions of how scientists are finding ways to tame the instabilities in plasma that can lead to the disruption of fusion reactions. Such research is critical to the next steps in advancing fusion energy to enable fusion devices to produce and sustain reactions that require temperatures many times hotter than the core of the sun.

Fusion, the power that drives the sun and stars, fuses light elements and releases energy. If scientists can capture and control fusion on earth, the process could provide clean energy to produce electricity for millions of years with no greenhouse gases.

Plasma, the state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei that fuels fusion reactions, is the common thread in PPPL research from astrophysics to nanotechnology to the science of fusion energy. Much of the research described in the magazine is relevant to ITER, the large multinational fusion device under construction in France. For example, in the section “New Paths to Fusion Energy” scientists describe that understanding the heating of electrons and ions — as ITER will do — can improve fusion reactions.

Quest details other efforts to understand the scientific basis of fusion and plasma behavior. For example, in the section on advancing fusion theory, physicists describe how artificial intelligence can help predict and tame disruptions, thereby improving fusion reactions. The PPPL’s new artificial intelligence program will run on Aurora, the nation’s first exascale computing system — capable of one quintillion calculations per second.

In “Advancing Plasma Science,” learn how low-temperature plasma can be used in nanosynthesis — a tool for creating nanostructures that can be used in industries from pharmaceuticals to microchips and consumer electronics. These structures are thousands of times thinner than the diameter of a human hair but have enormous potential in many consumer industries.

PPPL scientists and engineers have worked on fusion devices around the world. These collaborations include other devices besides ITER, including research on devices in China, South Korea, Germany, and elsewhere in the U.S.

Quest is online at

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton University, James Forrestal Campus, Box 451, Princeton 08543. 609-243-2000. Steve Cowley, director.


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Alliance Calibrations Group has expanded, buying an 11,000-square-foot facility on Georges Road in North Brunswick

ACG provides calibration, setup, installation, repair services, and preventive maintenance for analytical instruments that are used in the laboratories of pharmaceutical, chemical, and cosmetic companies, as well as criminal investigation labs throughout the country. Its clients include businesses of all sizes — from the largest of pharmaceutical companies to the smallest of biotechnology startups.

YWCA Princeton board members Betsy Garber, left, Fredi L. Pearlmutter, and Eileen McCoy Whang, and board president Megan Adams.

Management Move

YWCA Princeton, 59 Paul Robeson Place, Princeton 08540. 609-497-2100. Judy Hutton, CEO.

Fredi L. Pearlmutter, a partner at the law firm Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper, in Westfield has been named to the board of directors of YWCA Princeton. Pearlmutter’s practice focuses on environmental and public health issues. She is also actively involved with the community-based organization Sustainable Princeton. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a law degree from Harvard.


John Goodyear, 88, on July 5. A Lambertville-based visual artist whose career spanned more than 60 years, Goodyear was the former chairman of the art department at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, and a founding member of the Princeton area MOVIS arts group. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art, New Jersey State Museum, and Whitney Museum. He also created work for the New Jersey State House through the New Jersey Arts Inclusion Project.

Steven J. Zahirny ‘Proze,’ 40, on July 3. He was a graffiti artist and acrylic canvas painter whose graffiti talents were displayed at TerraCycle and during the annual Art All Night celebration in Trenton. He was also known for his custom kitchen and bathroom designs and finishings.

Joan Ann Abbotts, 88, on June 7. She was a realtor for Weidel Real Estate and a board member of Union Industrial Home for Children and Children’s Home Society, both in Trenton.

Rev. John V. Bowden, 82, on July 3. He was an ordained priest of the Diocese of Trenton, serving in various parishes.

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