Princeton University and the Max Planck Society of Germany have joined forces to collaborate on fusion energy research.

On March 29, Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and Peter Gruss, president of the Max Planck Society signed a deal officially establishing the Max Planck Princeton Research Center for Plasma Physics. The center will be a virtual facility in which researchers will work cooperatively on projects from their current locations.

The Max Planck Society is an independent non-profit association of some 80 German research institutes that is publicly funded by the federal and the 16 state governments of Germany. The society conducts basic research in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the arts and humanities.

“This collaboration is certain to enhance our common excellence in fusion and plasma astrophysical research and, more broadly, to advance the development of clean and abundant energy,” Tilghman said.

The center will combine the research capabilities of Princeton’s Department of Astrophysical Sciences, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), and the Max Planck Society’s institutes for plasma physics, astrophysics, and solar system research. They will focus on issues crucial to both fusion and astrophysical plasmas. Such plasmas consist of superhot and electrically charged gases whose fusion powers the sun and stars.

PPPL is a national laboratory funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science and managed by Princeton University. Its research mission is to advance the fields of fusion energy and plasma physics. Scientists hope eventually to use fusion energy to generate electricity.

Eight postdoctoral fellows from PPPL and the Princeton Department of Astrophysical Sciences will staff the center, along with 13 postdoctoral fellows from the Max Planck institutes.

Funding for the Princeton side of the venture will come from the federal government, the National Science Foundation, and Princeton University. The Max Planck Society will fund its institutes’ activities.

“We have had years of excellent collaboration with German scientists, and this brings it to a new level,” said James Van Dam, director of the research division of the DOE’s Office of Fusion Science. The DOE runs PPPL. “The interconnectedness of plasma physics is just amazing, and we really appreciate that this new center is involved in the whole field,” he said.

“There is wonderful synergy between PPPL and the Max Planck IPP,” said PPPL Director Stewart Prager. Both PPPL and the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) operate major experimental fusion facilities. for example. “We are very enthused to combine the capabilities of the two labs to make otherwise unattainable advances in key problems in fusion and astrophysics.”

James Stone, Princeton professor of astrophysical sciences and applied and computational mathematics, will oversee the U.S. side of the venture related to his area of expertise. Prager, Stone, and Sibylle Günter, director of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, will form the new center’s leading team.

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton University, James Forrestal Campus, Box 451, Princeton 08543-0451; 609-243-2000; fax, 609-243-2751. Stewart Prager, director.

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