Research for new energy

Research for new energy

The development of a sustainable energy supply on a global scale is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. The Max Planck Society is cooperating in this venture with the prestigious Princeton University in the US.

Several Max Planck institutes are involved in the Center’s collaborative efforts with the renowned Princeton University. “In the area of fusion research, in particular, it is essential that we pool our resources and knowledge,” stressed Max Planck President Peter Gruss. “This is the only way that we can develop nuclear fusion into something that the world requires very urgently for the years to come: safe, clean energy technology with sufficient baseload capacity.” Five years later, Max Planck President Martin Stratmann announced the extension of funding for the Max Planck-Princeton Research Center for Plasma Physics following an evaluation of the work carried out up to now.

The Center’s partners in the area of fusion research are the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Garching and Greifswald (IPP) and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). The MPIs for Solar System Research (Göttingen) and Astrophysics (Garching) and the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University are also involved in the area of astrophysics. “The aim of the collaboration is to make greater use of the synergies between fusion research and astrophysics,” says Sibylle Günter, Scientific Director of the IPP. It has emerged that many methods developed by fusion research are also applicable in the field of astrophysics. At the same time, shared insights into fusion and astrophysical plasmas will be used in the further development of the theoretical models, and will advance the research on fusion power as a practically exploitable energy source.

Together with Stewart Prager from the PPPL, Sibylle Günter formed the Leading Team of the Max Planck-Princeton Center. In the second funding period Per Helander from the IPP and Amitava Bhattacharjee from the PPPL will take over this position.

All of the partners on both the German and American sides have extensive experience in the fields of fusion research and astrophysics, and they complement each other in a variety of ways. To name just one of the many examples of their fruitful collaboration to be found in the 150 publications produced during the first five years of the Max Planck-Princeton cooperation, a computer code, which was developed to describe turbulence in fusion plasmas, was also able to help with answering the old astrophysics question as to why the solar wind is much hotter than the solar surface. This enabled plasma theorists from the IPP and their American colleagues to understand the heating mechanism in the solar wind plasma in detail and, as the comparison with space probe measurements shows, with previously unattained precision.

JE/IM

Picture: The Tokamak test fusion reactor (NSTX) is the experimental centerpiece of fusion research in Princeton. ©PPPL

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