Doe Science news source
The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2017-01-06 10:05:04
  • Article ID: 667255

Top 10 PPPL Stories That You Shouldn't Miss

Key developments and discoveries at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in 2016.

  • Credit: Elle Starkman/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

The past year saw many firsts in experimental and theoretical research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). Here, in no particular order, are 10 of the Laboratory’s top findings in 2016, from the first results on the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade to a new use for Einstein’s theory of special relativity to modeling the disk that feeds the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.

1. First results of the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U)

The NSTX-U recorded important findings during its first 10 weeks of operation, before shutting down for repairs. Results ranged from rapidly achieving high plasma confinement, a superior regime for plasma performance, to swiftly surpassing the maximum field strength of its predecessor prior to the upgrade. The nearly four-year overhaul doubled the heating capacity and field strength of the NSTX-U, making it the most powerful spherical torus device in the world.

2. Collaborating on fusion facilities around the world

PPPL contributes heavily to worldwide fusion experiments. PPPL leads all U.S. collaborators on the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator in Germany, and played a key role in confirming the accuracy of the twisty, 3D magnetic fields that distinguish stellarators from 2D tokamak devices. The Lab leads studies on avoiding disruptions on KSTAR, the major tokamak in South Korea, and heads a multi-institutional project to study plasma-material interaction on China’s EAST tokamak. Domestically, PPPL collaborations on the DIII-D tokamak at General Atomics this year have ranged from analyzing the behavior of the crucial edge of fusion plasmas to coupling our flagship TRANSP fusion analysis code to a GA code to make TRANSP widely available to beginners and experts alike.

3. Unraveling the source of rapid reconnection

Scientists have puzzled for decades over what causes magnetic reconnection, a universal process that sets off solar flares, northern lights and geomagnetic storms, to develop so much faster than theory says it should. Recent findings at PPPL suggest the answer lies in electrically charged plasma sheets that break up into tiny magnetic islands called “plasmoids” that evolve from quiescent to explosive stages. This process, which roughly follows a principle laid out by 17th century mathematician Pierre de Fermat, accelerates magnetic reconnection, which occurs when the magnetic field lines in plasma converge and violently snap apart.

4.Applying Einstein and quantum mechanics to astrophysical mysteries

Pulsars, collapsed stars that orbit a cosmic companion and flash like lighthouses in the sky, have many properties that defy detailed explanation. Researchers at PPPL and Princeton have combined Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity with the theory of quantum mechanics to portray several of the qualities. The new method infers the strength of the magnetic field and density of the plasma that surrounds pulsars with greater precision than standard approaches can show. This method, based on the complex behavior of plasma waves, can also infer such properties for the plasma created by inertial fusion, which uses lasers to vaporize a target that contains plasma fuel.

5. Delivering power and diagnostics to ITER

The United States is a key contributor to ITER, the international fusion experiment under construction in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power. PPPL is an important participant in the experiment. During the past year the Laboratory completed delivery of new major components for the steady state electrical network that will power the complex plant’s electrical loads, with the exception of the pulsed loads that will power the heating, current and magnetic fields inside the giant tokamak itself. PPPL also furthered development of designs for seven diagnostic instruments that the U.S. will provide to ITER to observe, record and analyze data from its experiments.

6. First steps toward a possible technique for facilitating disarmament agreements

The Laboratory and Princeton University successfully completed a novel experiment for a system that, when fully developed, could prove useful in future disarmament talks. The experiment translated a method called “zero-knowledge protocol” that is employed in cryptography into use in a physical system. The aim of this system is to determine, without tapping into classified information, whether objects to be dismantled are true nuclear warheads. The experiment successfully distinguished between “true” and “false” patterns of 2-inch steel and aluminum cubes without revealing any information about the composition and configuration of the cubes. While far more development will need to be done, the test marked a promising beginning.

7. Creating a framework for improving high-intensity particle accelerator beams

Accelerator beams consist of billions of charged particles that are used in scientific experiments to strike other particles with enormous intensity and generate subatomic particles not seen since the early universe. However, mutual repulsion of the particles and imperfections of accelerators tend to degrade the beam, so the walls of large devices are lined with high-precision magnets to control the motion. Now researchers at PPPL, South Korea and Germany have teamed up to develop a theoretical framework for optimizing the beams. The new method contrasts with standard approaches, which treat the horizontal and vertical motions of the charged particles as uncoupled. Instead, the new system couples all forces and elements that can stabilize the beam, and the results agreed well with simulation of a German experiment that illustrated a technique for manipulating the beams of future accelerators.

8. Modeling the accretion disk that feeds the black hole at the center of our galaxy

As the accretion disk that orbits the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way spirals into the hole, the plasma particles that comprise it emit far less radiation than the disks that flow into many other black holes. The question is why, since feeding black holes can create some of the brightest and most energetic radiation in the universe, and the huge Milky Way hole has four million times the mass of our sun. To help find the answer, scientists at PPPL and Princeton University have developed a rigorous new method for modeling the disk around the gigantic Milky Way hole, which is called Sagittarius A*. The particles inside this disk’s plasma rarely collide, compared with the frequent collisions of particles in other disks. So tracing the movements of individual collisionless particles in Sagittarius A*, rather than relying on standard formulas that treat the plasma in collisional disks as a fluid, could produce improved predictions of how the Sagittarius A* disk will behave when compared with astrophysical observations.

9. A shot-by-shot look at what happens when plasma meets walls

Of crucial importance to the production of fusion energy is the contact during experiments — or shots — between particles of the hot plasma that fuels fusion reactions and the walls that enclose the magnetically confined gas. Such contact can erode the walls of a fusion facility and recycle the particles back into the core of the plasma, cooling it down and halting fusion reactions. At PPPL, physicists have collaborated with a consortium that includes Princeton University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to successfully test a unique diagnostic called a Materials Analysis Particle Probe (MAPP) that swiftly analyzes what happens when plasma meets a tokamak’s walls. The diagnostic, tested on a shot-by-shot basis on the NSTX-U at PPPL, could become an integral part of fusion research and lead to optimal methods of conditioning a facility’s walls.

10. Gauging the speed of fusion plasma rotation

The superhot plasma that fuels fusion reactions swirls rapidly during experiments — but how fast is it spinning and why do researchers want to know? At PPPL, physicists have developed a real time velocity diagnostic that delivers crucial information about the speed of the swirl that could lead to a system for actively controlling the rapid motion. Such control can be critical for optimizing the stability of the plasma against a range of instabilities that can shut down reactions. Researchers gathered their findings by measuring just four points of the plasma during NSTX-U operations, enabling the diagnostic to swiftly calculate how the velocity evolves over time.

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

X
X
X
  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

Innovative Design Using Loops of Liquid Metal Can Improve Future Fusion Power Plants, Scientists Say

Article describes proposed design for production of steady-state plasma in future fusion power plants.

Scientists Create Most Powerful Micro-Scale Bio-Solar Cell Yet

Researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York have created a micro-scale biological solar cell that generates a higher power density for longer than any existing cell of its kind.

ESnet's Science DMZ Design Could Help Transfer, Protect Medical Research Data

As medicine becomes more data-intensive, Berkeley Lab & ESnet's Medical Science DMZ eyed as secure solution for transferring data

Breakthrough Cuttable, Flexible, Submersible and Ballistic-Tested Lithium-ion Battery Offers New Paradigm of Safety and Performance

Breakthrough Cuttable, Flexible, Submersible and Ballistic-Tested Lithium-ion Battery Offers New Paradigm of Safety and Performance

Chemical Treatment Improves Quantum Dot Lasers

One of the secrets to making tiny laser devices such as opthalmic surgery scalpels work even more efficiently is the use of tiny semiconductor particles, called quantum dots. In new research at Los Alamos National Laboratory's Nanotech Team, the ~nanometer-sized dots are being doctored, or "doped," with additional electrons, a treatment that nudges the dots ever closer to producing the desired laser light with less stimulation and energy loss.

Neutrons Observe Vitamin B6-Dependent Enzyme Activity Useful for Drug Development

Scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have performed neutron structural analysis of a vitamin B6-dependent protein, potentially opening avenues for new antibiotics and drugs to battle diseases such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria and diabetes. Specifically, the team used neutron crystallography to study the location of hydrogen atoms in aspartate aminotransferase, or AAT, an enzyme vital to the metabolism of certain amino acids.

Scientists Decode the Origin of Universe's Heavy Elements in the Light From a Neutron Star Merger

On Aug. 17, scientists around the globe were treated to near-simultaneous observations by separate instruments that would ultimately be confirmed as the first measurement of the merger of two neutron stars and its explosive aftermath.

PPPL Takes Detailed Look at 2-D Structure of Turbulence in Tokamaks

Article describes study of cross-correlation of turbulence in tokamaks.

New Method to Detect Spin Current in Quantum Materials Unlocks Potential for Alternative Electronics

A new method that precisely measures the mysterious behavior and magnetic properties of electrons flowing across the surface of quantum materials could open a path to next-generation electronics. A team of scientists has developed an innovative microscopy technique to detect the spin of electrons in topological insulators, a new kind of quantum material that could be used in applications such as spintronics and quantum computing.

Purple Power: Synthetic 'Purple Membranes' Transform Sunlight to Hydrogen Fuel

Argonne researchers have found a new way to produce solar fuels by developing "synthetic purple membranes." These membranes involve an assembly of lipid nanodiscs, man-made proteins, and semiconducting nanoparticles that, when taken together, can transform sunlight into hydrogen fuel.


  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

NIH Awards $6.5 Million to Berkeley Lab for Augmenting Structural Biology Research Experience

The NIH has awarded $6.5 million to Berkeley Lab to integrate existing synchrotron structural biology resources to better serve researchers. The grant will establish a center based at the Lab's Advanced Light Source (ALS) called ALS-ENABLE that will guide users through the most appropriate routes for answering their specific biological questions.

LIGO Announces Detection of Gravitational Waves From Colliding Neutron Stars

The U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory and the Virgo detector in Italy announced on Oct. 16 that all three of their detectors had picked up the ripples, or gravitational waves, from two neutron stars that collided 130 million years ago. Among other discoveries, the detection allowed scientists to use gravitational waves to directly calculate the rate at which the universe is expanding.

WVU Energy Conference to Address State's Economic Opportunities

West Virginia University will look at the state's emerging energy economy through industry experts, public policy organizations, environmental groups and academic institutions at the sixth annual National Energy Conference Oct. 20.

Exploring the Exotic World of Quarks and Gluons at the Dawn of the Exascale

As nuclear physicists delve ever deeper into the heart of matter, they require the tools to reveal the next layer of nature's secrets. Nowhere is that more true than in computational nuclear physics. A new research effort led by theorists at DOE's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) is now preparing for the next big leap forward in their studies thanks to funding under the 2017 SciDAC Awards for Computational Nuclear Physics.

Matthew Latimer Receives 2017 Lytle Award

A staff member at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Acceleratory Laboratory, Matthew Latimer is in charge of seven spectroscopy beamlines at SSRL. He was recently selected for the 2017 Farrel W. Lytle Award, established by the SSRL Users' Organization Executive Committee. The award promotes accomplishments in synchrotron science and supports collaboration among visiting scientists and staff who conduct research at SSRL.

Jefferson Lab Completes 12 GeV Upgrade

Nuclear physicists are now poised to embark on a new journey of discovery into the fundamental building blocks of the nucleus of the atom. The completion of the 12 GeV Upgrade Project of the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) heralds this new era to image nuclei at their deepest level.

Sunderrajan to Lead Science and Technology Partnerships and Outreach Directorate

Suresh Sunderrajan has been named the associate laboratory director (ALD) for the Science and Technology Partnerships and Outreach (STPO) Directorate at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

Career Awards Advance Research for Jefferson Lab Researchers

Two researchers affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility have received 2017 Early Career Research Program awards from the DOE's Office of Science.

U.S. Department of Energy Awards Danforth Center $16M to Enhance Sorghum for Bioenergy

This project aims to deliver stress-tolerant sorghum lines, addressing DOE's mission in the generation of renewable energy resources.

Four Los Alamos Scientists Named as 2017 Laboratory Fellows

Four Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have been named 2017 Fellows.


  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

Discovering the Genetic Timekeepers in Bioenergy Crops

A new class of plant-specific genes required for flowering control in temperate grasses is found.

New Technology Illuminates Microbial Dark Matter

Demonstrating the microfluidic-based, mini-metagenomics approach on samples from hot springs shows how scientists can delve into microbes that can't be cultivated in a laboratory.

Tiny Green Algae Reveal Large Genomic Variation

First complete picture of genetic variations in a natural algal population could help explain how environmental changes affect global carbon cycles.

A Complex Little Alga that Lives by the Sea

The genetic material of Porphyra umbilicalis reveals the mechanisms by which it thrives in the stressful intertidal zone at the edge of the ocean.

Precise Radioactivity Measurements: A Controversy Settled

Simultaneous measurements of x-rays and gamma rays emitted in radioactive nuclear decays show that the vacancy left by an electron's departure, not the atomic structure, influences whether gamma rays are released.

OLYMPUS Experiment Sheds Light on Inner Workings of Protons

Seven-year study explains how packets of light are exchanged when protons meet electrons.

Explorations of the Universal Glue

The newly upgraded CEBAF Accelerator opens door to strong force studies.

Understanding the Rice Genome for Bioenergy Research

Genome-wide rice studies yield first major, large-scale collection of mutations for grass model crops, vital to boosting biofuel production.

Bringing Visual "Magic" to Light

Scientists create widely controllable ultrathin optical components that allow virtual objects to be projected in real environments.

Speeding Materials Discovery Puts Solar Fuels on the Fast Track to Commercial Viability

In just two years, a process that was developed by Molecular Foundry staff and users has nearly doubled the number of materials with the potential for using sunlight to produce fuel.


Spotlight

Tuesday October 03, 2017, 01:05 PM

Stairway to Science

Argonne National Laboratory

Thursday September 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

After-School Energy Rush

Argonne National Laboratory

Thursday September 28, 2017, 10:05 AM

Bringing Diversity Into Computational Science Through Student Outreach

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Thursday September 21, 2017, 03:05 PM

From Science to Finance: SLAC Summer Interns Forge New Paths in STEM

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Thursday September 07, 2017, 02:05 PM

Students Discuss 'Cosmic Opportunities' at 45th Annual SLAC Summer Institute

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Thursday August 31, 2017, 05:05 PM

Binghamton University Opens $70 Million Smart Energy Building

Binghamton University, State University of New York

Wednesday August 23, 2017, 05:05 PM

Widening Horizons for High Schoolers with Code

Argonne National Laboratory

Saturday May 20, 2017, 12:05 PM

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Monday May 15, 2017, 01:05 PM

ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday April 07, 2017, 11:05 AM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jonathan Kirzner

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Wednesday April 05, 2017, 12:05 PM

High-Schooler Solves College-Level Security Puzzle From Argonne, Sparks Interest in Career

Argonne National Laboratory

Tuesday March 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jenica Jacobi

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Friday March 24, 2017, 10:40 AM

Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Wednesday February 15, 2017, 04:05 PM

Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

Argonne National Laboratory

Friday January 27, 2017, 04:00 PM

Haslam Visits ORNL to Highlight State's Role in Discovering Tennessine

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Tuesday November 08, 2016, 12:05 PM

Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday May 13, 2016, 04:05 PM

More Than 12,000 Explore Jefferson Lab During April 30 Open House

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Monday April 25, 2016, 05:05 PM

Giving Back to National Science Bowl

Ames Laboratory

Friday March 25, 2016, 12:05 PM

NMSU Undergrad Tackles 3D Particle Scattering Animations After Receiving JSA Research Assistantship

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Tuesday February 02, 2016, 10:05 AM

Shannon Greco: A Self-Described "STEM Education Zealot"

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Monday November 16, 2015, 04:05 PM

Rare Earths for Life: An 85th Birthday Visit with Mr. Rare Earth

Ames Laboratory

Tuesday October 20, 2015, 01:05 PM

Meet Robert Palomino: 'Give Everything a Shot!'

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Tuesday April 22, 2014, 11:30 AM

University of Utah Makes Solar Accessible

University of Utah

Wednesday March 06, 2013, 03:40 PM

Student Innovator at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Seeks Brighter, Smarter, and More Efficient LEDs

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday November 16, 2012, 10:00 AM

Texas Tech Energy Commerce Students, Community Light up Tent City

Texas Tech University

Wednesday November 23, 2011, 10:45 AM

Don't Get 'Frosted' Over Heating Your Home This Winter

Temple University

Wednesday July 06, 2011, 06:00 PM

New Research Center To Tackle Critical Challenges Related to Aircraft Design, Wind Energy, Smart Buildings

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday April 22, 2011, 09:00 AM

First Polymer Solar-Thermal Device Heats Home, Saves Money

Wake Forest University

Friday April 15, 2011, 12:25 PM

Like Superman, American University Will Get Its Energy from the Sun

American University

Thursday February 10, 2011, 05:00 PM

ARRA Grant to Help Fund Seminary Building Green Roof

University of Chicago

Tuesday December 07, 2010, 05:00 PM

UC San Diego Installing 2.8 Megawatt Fuel Cell to Anchor Energy Innovation Park

University of California San Diego

Monday November 01, 2010, 12:50 PM

Rensselaer Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center Announces First Deployment of New Technology on Campus

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday September 10, 2010, 12:40 PM

Ithaca College Will Host Regional Clean Energy Summit

Ithaca College

Tuesday July 27, 2010, 10:30 AM

Texas Governor Announces $8.4 Million Award to Create Renewable Energy Institute

Texas Tech University

Friday May 07, 2010, 04:20 PM

Creighton University to Offer New Alternative Energy Program

Creighton University

Wednesday May 05, 2010, 09:30 AM

National Engineering Program Seeks Subject Matter Experts in Energy

JETS Junior Engineering Technical Society

Wednesday April 21, 2010, 12:30 PM

Students Using Solar Power To Create Sustainable Solutions for Haiti, Peru

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Wednesday March 03, 2010, 07:00 PM

Helping Hydrogen: Student Inventor Tackles Challenge of Hydrogen Storage

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Thursday February 04, 2010, 02:00 PM

Turning Exercise into Electricity

Furman University

Thursday November 12, 2009, 12:45 PM

Campus Leaders Showing the Way to a Sustainable, Clean Energy Future

National Wildlife Federation (NWF)

Tuesday November 03, 2009, 04:20 PM

Furman University Receives $2.5 Million DOE Grant for Geothermal Project

Furman University

Thursday September 17, 2009, 02:45 PM

Could Sorghum Become a Significant Alternative Fuel Source?

Salisbury University

Wednesday September 16, 2009, 11:15 AM

Students Navigating the Hudson River With Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Wednesday September 16, 2009, 10:00 AM

College Presidents Flock to D.C., Urge Senate to Pass Clean Energy Bill

National Wildlife Federation (NWF)

Wednesday July 01, 2009, 04:15 PM

Northeastern Announces New Professional Master's in Energy Systems

Northeastern University

Friday October 12, 2007, 09:35 AM

Kansas Rural Schools To Receive Wind Turbines

Kansas State University

Thursday August 17, 2006, 05:30 PM

High Gas Prices Here to Stay, Says Engineering Professor

Rowan University





Showing results

0-4 Of 2215