Scientists From Around the World Come to New Jersey to Discuss How to Control Plasma-Surface Interactions for Fusion

PPPL By Larry Bernard | June 4, 2018

Physicists Rajesh Maingi, left, and Charles Skinner.

PRINCETON, New Jersey (June 6, 2018) – The 23rd International Conference on Plasma Surface Interactions in Controlled Fusion Devices – the preeminent biennial research conference in this field – begins on June 17 and continues for six days.

More than 400 scientists from around the world will convene at Princeton University to discuss the state of research on how plasma-material interactions can be managed so fusion reactions – the same reactions that occur in the Sun and stars – can produce virtually unlimited energy on Earth in what could be called “a star in a jar.” The conference web site is: (link is external)

Organized this year by the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), a collaborative national center for fusion and plasma research operated by Princeton University for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the conference covers topics ranging from the dizzying complex conditions at the edge of fusion plasmas to the control of the intense heat flowing to the walls of fusion devices. Temperatures inside such devices are many times greater than the core of the sun. PPPL is the only one of 10 national laboratories in the DOE Office of Science dedicated to fusion research.

PPPL physicists Rajesh Maingi is overall Conference Chair and Charles Skinner is Chair of the Local Organizing Committee; Egemen Kolemen, Princeton University assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering with an appointment at PPPL, is the Princeton Contact.

Fusion, the power that drives the sun and stars, is the fusing of light elements in a plasma — the hot, charged state of matter composed of free electrons and ions — to generate massive amounts of energy that can, it is hoped, be converted to electricity for the benefit of humankind. The hot plasma in the core of a fusion energy device must interact with its low-temperature material walls.

“Taming the plasma-material interface has long been recognized as a key quest in the development of fusion energy. The seventh conference in this 46-year series was also held in Princeton in 1986, and notable progress has been made since then,” Skinner said. More than 400 research papers have been accepted for presentation at the 2018 conference, enough for all participants to find something of interest.

The conference begins Monday, June 18, with an introductory talk by Robert Socolow, Princeton University professor emeritus of mechanical and aerospace engineering, on a thought-stretching and provocative question: “In a low-carbon future, where does fusion fit in? (link is external)”

The conference includes tutorials led by worldwide experts on hot topics in the field, including how ITER (pronounced ‘EAT-er’), the major international fusion device under construction in France, will manage the intense heat and particles flowing to its walls. PPPL is an appropriate organizer of this conference, as it manages the nation’s spherical torus (ST) tokamak, or fusion energy device. Called the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade, the cored-apple-shaped device will be the most capable ST tokamak in the world. It has already yielded valuable research clues that help inform ITER and other next-generation fusion devices.

Conference sponsors are the DOE, PPPL, Princeton University, MIT, and the University of California-San Diego.

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 thecreation 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 theUnited States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit (link is external).