Newswise — Path-setting findings and expansion into exciting new areas mark research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) during the past year. Quest highlights this progress in brief and easy-to-read pieces that outline research at the only DOE national laboratory devoted to the development of fusion energy and the exploration of plasma — the fourth state of matter that fuels fusion reactions and makes up 99 percent of the visible universe.

“The past year was rife with breakthroughs as we forged ahead despite difficulties posed by the COVID pandemic,” writes Steve Cowley, PPPL director, in the Welcome Letter for the 2021 edition of Quest. “Our prolific and productive research staff has delivered outstanding experimental and theoretical breakthroughs into the scientific basis for producing fusion energy and into plasma disciplines from astrophysics to nanotechnology.”

The expansion of PPPL into a multipurpose Lab builds upon the far-reaching capabilities of the scientific and engineering staff, whose achievements this magazine features. Accomplishments range from the use of artificial intelligence to advance fusion research to investigations into the source of stars and planets that populate the universe.

New ventures

Leading new ventures are two renowned physicists who have joined PPPL. William Dorland of the University of Maryland heads the new Computational Sciences Department, which addresses challenges ranging from uncovering the scientific basis for harvesting fusion energy to developing novel computational methods for cracking science and engineering puzzles.

David Graves, formerly of the University of California, Berkeley, heads the second new venture to understand and exploit the use of low-temperature plasmas to synthesize materials and fabricate structures near the atomic scale. This nanofabrication research aims to investigate and improve the use of plasmas for industrial applications that range from semiconductor manufacturing to producing devices for super-fast quantum computers.

The new ventures blend naturally into PPPL and its world-class departments, which Quest highlights in pieces that extend from bringing to Earth the fusion that powers the sun and stars to understanding the universe.

“As usual, our research staff has been prolific over the past year and Quest is testimony to their high-quality efforts,” said Jon Menard, deputy director for research. “As readers encounter this research we hope they will share in the thrill of these journeys into scientific disciplines that are of rapidly growing importance for the world.”

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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