Scientists crack complex equation to hasten the harnessing of fusion

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John Greenwald, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Jan. 4, 2022

Scientists around the world are seeking to reproduce the fusion process – the same power that drives the sun and stars – to provide a safe, clean and abundant power to generate electricity.

But, for a long time, a key hurdle has been solving the equation that describes the motion of free-wheeling electrons as they collide and bounce around inside devices called tokamaks. These are doughnut-shaped devices that confine the plasma in magnetic fields and are among the main research devices used to create fusion.

Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory have developed an effective computational method to simulate the movement of free electrons during experimental efforts to recreate fusion. 

The method cracks a complex equation that can enable improved control of the random and fast-moving moving electrons in the fuel for fusion energy.

“This gives experimentalists a better theoretical description of what’s going on to help them design their experiments,” said Hong Qin, a principal research physicist and a coauthor of the paper recently published in in the Journal of Computational Physics that proposes a solution. “Previously, there was no working algorithm for this equation, and physicists got around this difficulty by changing the equation.”

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