From Max Planck Gesellschaft: “Max-Planck-Princeton partnership in fusion research confirmed”

Max Planck Gesellschaft

November 28, 2017

Isabella Milch
Press Officer, Head of Public Relations and Press Department
Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, Garching
+49 89 3299-1288

Investigation of plasmas in astrophysics and fusion research / funding for another two to five years.

The scientific performance of Max-Planck-Princeton Center for Plasma Physics, established in 2012 by the Max Planck Society and Princeton University, USA, has been evaluated and awarded top grade. The Max Planck Society has now decided to continue its support for another two to maximum five years with 250,000 euros annually. The center’s objective is to link up the hitherto less coordinated research on fusion, laboratory and space plasmas and utilise synergies.

Turbulence in solar wind plasma. The simulation shows the magnetic field fluctuations due to turbulence. Their spatial and temporal structures can be compared with space probe measurements
© MPI for Plasma Physics / Daniel Told

The center’s partners in fusion research are Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) at Garching and Greifswald and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in the USA. Plasmas in astrophysics are being investigated at Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen and of Astrophysics in Garching and at the Faculty of Astrophysics of Princeton University. Primarily through exchange of scientists, particularly junior scientists, computer codes have been jointly developed in the past five years and experimentation has been pursued on the devices MRX at Princeton, Vineta at Greifswald and ASDEX Upgrade at Garching. “For the evaluation the center presented a total of 150 publications, accounting for significant progress in central areas of plasma physics and astrophysics”, states Professor Per Helander, head of IPP’s Stellarator Theory division and, alongside Professor Amitava Bhattacharjee from PPPL, Deputy Director of Max-Planck-Princeton Center since 2017.

For example, the old question in astrophysics why solar wind is much hotter than the sun’s surface can now be treated with a computer code developed to describe turbulence in fusion plasmas. This enabled plasma theoreticians from IPP along with US colleagues to investigate in detail the heating mechanism in solar wind plasma – with hitherto unattained accuracy – and compare their results with space probe measurements.

Another puzzle whose solution has been approached at Max-Planck-Princeton Center: Why is it that in outer space and in the laboratory magnetic reconnection, i.e. rupture and relinking of magnetic field lines, is much faster than theory predicts? Whether solar corona or fusion plasma, the rearrangement of the field lines is always accompanied by fast conversion of magnetic energy to thermal and kinetic energy of plasma particles. Physicists from Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and from the University of Princeton have described a fast mechanism that could describe the observations in the solar corona: formation of unstable plasmoids. Also the sawtooth instability in fusion plasmas, i.e. continual ejection of particles from the plasma core, derives from instantaneous reconnection of magnetic field lines. In the framework of the Max-Planck-Princeton cooperation IPP scientists have now come up with the first realistic simulation that can explain the superfast velocity.

Last but not least, a new theory ansatz for calculating magnetic equilibria, first developed at Princeton, led to a very fast computer code. With the new algorithm, equilibrium calculations for the complex magnetic fields of future stellarator fusion devices no longer take months, but just a few minutes.

“As hoped, the center has created new cooperations and built sturdy bridges, on the one hand between research on plasmas in fusion devices, in the laboratory and in outer space, and on the other hand between US and German plasma physicists”, as IPP’s Scientific Director Professor Sibylle Günter sums up the past five years of Max-Planck-Princeton Center. Along with Professor Stewart Prager of PPPL she is one of the two Co-directors of the center. The successful cooperation has meanwhile attracted further partners. In July 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding for admission of Japan’s National Institutes of Natural Sciences was signed: “We look forward to the next years of joint research”, states Sibylle Günter, “made possible by the present confirmation by the Max Planck Society”.

Max Planck Princeton Research Center for Plasma Physics

Welcome to the Max-Planck-Princeton Center for Fusion and Astro Plasma Physics

The center fosters collaboration between scientific institutes in both Germany and the USA. By leveraging the skills and expertise of scientists and engineers in both countries, and by promoting collaboration between astrophysicists and fusion scientists generally, the center hopes to accelerate discovery in fundamental areas of plasma physics.

An equally important mission of the center is to support education and outreach to train the next generation of scientists. In the USA, this includes hosting training workshops for K-12 science teachers, and sponsoring summer research experiences for undergraduates.

In Germany, the host institutions are the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik (IPP), the Max-Planck-Institut for Solar System Research (MPS), and the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA). In the USA, the host institutions are the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), and the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University.

To find out more about the Center, follow the links here.

Funding for the Center is generously provided by the DoE Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, the Max-Planck Society, NASA’s Heliophysics Division, and Princeton University.

See the full article here .

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The Max Planck Society is Germany’s most successful research organization. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists, putting it on a par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide. The more than 15,000 publications each year in internationally renowned scientific journals are proof of the outstanding research work conducted at Max Planck Institutes – and many of those articles are among the most-cited publications in the relevant field.

What is the basis of this success? The scientific attractiveness of the Max Planck Society is based on its understanding of research: Max Planck Institutes are built up solely around the world’s leading researchers. They themselves define their research subjects and are given the best working conditions, as well as free reign in selecting their staff. This is the core of the Harnack principle, which dates back to Adolph von Harnack, the first president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, which was established in 1911. This principle has been successfully applied for nearly one hundred years. The Max Planck Society continues the tradition of its predecessor institution with this structural principle of the person-centered research organization.

The currently 83 Max Planck Institutes and facilities conduct basic research in the service of the general public in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Max Planck Institutes focus on research fields that are particularly innovative, or that are especially demanding in terms of funding or time requirements. And their research spectrum is continually evolving: new institutes are established to find answers to seminal, forward-looking scientific questions, while others are closed when, for example, their research field has been widely established at universities. This continuous renewal preserves the scope the Max Planck Society needs to react quickly to pioneering scientific developments.