Princeton physicists play important role in recent fusion energy breakthrough

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John Greenwald, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Feb. 16, 2022

Scientists around the world are seeking to reproduce and control fusion — the power that drives the sun and stars — for a virtually inexhaustible supply of safe and clean power to generate electricity.

Now, the largest and most powerful tokamak fusion facility in current use, the facility at the Joint European Torus (JET) in the United Kingdom, set an historic record in the production of experimental fusion energy. That energy totaled 59 megajoules for five seconds, a power output that averaged 11.8 million Watts — more than two-and-a-half times the world record previously set by JET in 1997.

Princeton scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) played a supporting role in the recent breakthrough.

“We provided and operated a diagnostic to measure the loss of energetic ions,” said Mario Podesta, the PPPL physicist who led the work. “Such ions produce fusion reactions and provide heat to the plasma and understanding why they are lost is the first step to improving their confinement.”

The recent production of fusion power marks a major step toward the creation of safe and clean fusion energy to offset global climate change. 

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