The current state of fusion energy research – Q&A with Steven Cowley and Egemen Kolemen

Written by
Molly Seltzer, Office of Communications
Jan. 29, 2020

The promise of harnessing the power that fuels the sun and stars – the process called fusion – is, in 2020, having its proverbial “hot” moment.

Decarbonizing the planet and replacing fossil-based fuels with fusion energy is coming closer to reality as the international community pours more funds and resources into fusion research.

Steven Cowley, the director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Egemen Kolemen, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and an expert in plasma control systems and tokamaks, sat down with Andlinger Center Speaks in January to discuss the current state – and promise – of fusion research.

Kolemen said that greater awareness of the dangers of global warming from fossil-based fuels has been a major catalyst in increasing interest in this research. Fusion, he explained, is unlike nuclear fission in that it does not split atoms but fuses them together, producing safe and clean energy.

“The long-term goal is to develop a system that is sustainable over millions of years,” said Cowley. “The interesting thing about fusion is that it is not a limited resource. There is enough fuel really to power the planet for its entire existence.”

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