Engineering students learn about revolutionary alternative energy

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is working on making nuclear fusion the next big energy source.

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Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is working on making nuclear fusion the next big energy source.

Jenny Chen, Staff writer

Annually, Mr. Aleo’s engineering class is given the opportunity to visit the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) at the conclusion of the AP exams.

This year, on May 22, the engineering students were introduced to a new wave of technology as they toured the nationally renowned laboratory.

Located on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus, the laboratory has a rich and impressive history of pioneering research, and conducting experiments surrounding nuclear fusion and plasma physics.

In 2015, after sixteen years of strenuous research, dedication, and collaboration from scientists around the world, PPPL successfully completed the National Spherical Torus Experiment Upgrade (NSTX-U), an instrument capable of transforming the way we consume energy forever.

NSTX-U is a magnetic fusion device, a spherical tokamak, designed to combat the formidable energy crisis by harnessing the energy released from atoms combining together, a process known as nuclear fusion.

A producer of this type of energy in real life is the Sun. Nuclear fusion powers and sustains the star as hydrogen atoms combine to form helium, and so on. Similarity, inside a tokamak, the energy produced through the fusion of atoms is absorbed as heat in the walls of the vessel. Just like a conventional power plant, a fusion power plant will use this heat to produce steam and then electricity by way of turbines and generators.

“I see a lot of potential in this technology,” Senior Nicole Zou said. “The process sounds very waste effective, and I hope to see this alternative form of energy being accessible to everyone in the future.”

Mr. Aleo is always left astounded by the facility and its everlasting innovation.

“Despite coming here every year,” Mr. Aleo said. “I always learn something new at the end of the day.”