Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL)


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100 Stellarator Road
Princeton, NJ 08543
United States

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Princeton University's Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), has the primary mission to develop the basis for toroidal magnetic fusion energy. In support of PPPL's mission, an experienced staff of physicists and engineers conduct R&D in many scientific and technical areas. This work has led to advances in numerous physics, engineering and technological disciplines with potential for commercial and industrial applications.


The DOE Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a Collaborative National Center for plasma and fusion science. Its primary mission is to develop the scientific understanding and the key innovations, which will lead to an attractive new energy source. Associated missions include conducting world-leading research along the broad frontier of plasma science and technology, and providing the highest quality of scientific education.

Tech Areas

Available Technologies
Displaying 1 - 10 of 161
"Stationary Flowing Liquid Lithium System For Pumping Out Atomic Hydrogen Isotopes and Ions" Leonid E. Zakharov and Charles Gentile
A Catalyst Wire-feed Arc Discharge for Synthesis of Carbon Nanotubes and Graphene Particles
A Lithium Getter Pump System ---- nventors Richard Majeski, Eugene Kearns, and John Schmitt
A Magnetically Controlled Plasma Source Inventor Yevgeny Raitses
A Method of Choosing the Optimal Position, Orientation, and Acceptance of a Fast Ion Loss Detector or Collector in a Tokamak
A method to distill hydrogen isotopes from lithium
A Method to Distill Hydrogen Isotopes from Lithium
A Method to Improve Voltage Holding Across Vacuum Electrical Gaps to Improve the Performance and Reduce the Conditioning Time by Removing Bacteria, Fungi, and Other Microbial Organisms and Their Spores. -- . Inventor Larry Grisham.
A Neutral Beam Pole Shield with Copper Plates and Serviceable Molybdenum Inserts
A New Class of Focusing Crystal Surfaces for the Bragg Spectroscopy of High-Density Plasmas and Small (point-like) X-Ray Sources


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A proven system for verifying that apparent nuclear weapons slated to be dismantled contained true warheads could provide a key step toward the further reduction of nuclear arms.The system would achieve this verification while safeguarding classified information that could lead to nuclear proliferation. Scientists at Princeton University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) are developing the prototype for such a system, called a “zero-knowledge protocol,” that would verify the presence of warheads without collecting any classified information at all. “The goal is to prove with as high confidence as required that an object is a true nuclear warhead while learning nothing about the materials and design of the warhead itself,” said physicist Robert Goldston, a fusion researcher and former director of PPPL, and a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton. While numerous efforts have been made over the years to develop systems for verifying the actual content of warheads covered by disarmament treaties, no such methods are currently in use for treaty verification.

The system would compare a warhead to be inspected with a known true warhead to see if the weapons matched. This would be done by beaming high-energy neutrons into each warhead and recording how many neutrons passed through to detectors positioned on the other side. Neutrons that passed through would be added to those already “preloaded” into the detectors by the warheads’ owner and if the total number of neutrons were the same for each warhead, the weapons would be found to match. But different totals would show that the warhead being inspected was really a spoof. Prior to the test, the inspector would decide which preloaded detector would go with which warhead.

A project to evaluate this approach is under construction at PPPL.The project calls for firing high-energy neutrons at a non-nuclear target called a British Test Object that will serve as a proxy for warheads. Researchers will compare results of the tests by noting how many neutrons pass through the target to bubble detectors that Yale University is designing for the project.

If proven successful, dedicated inspection systems based on radiation measurements could help to advance disarmament talks beyond the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the United States and Russia, which runs from 2011 to 2021. 

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory has licensed the technology for Direct Fusion Drive (DFD) a fusion-powered rocket engine that could take people on a mission to orbit Mars for 30 days with total trip duration of 310 days, something that is impossible with chemical or nuclear fission engines. The mission could be launched on a single NASA Space Launch System (SLS) booster and be ready when the SLS is available for human spaceflight. This would lead to human lander missions and Mars bases. Current experiments at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) are exploring basic physics principles of the proposed engine’s fuel-confinement scheme at small scale. The licenses also cover a potential new and novel magnetic fusion facility, with applications that include generating electricity for power stations and propelling space travel.

The magnetic device would create a cigar-shaped plasma—the superhot, electrically charged gas that fuels fusion reactions—inside a cylinder that is some 20 feet long and could produce up to 10 million watts of power. Propulsion would come from the stream of high-speed fusion exhaust that would blast into space through a magnetic nozzle. See PPPL Magnetic Nozzle Experiment below.

A test facility, based on a concept known as magnetic field reversed confinement, could be completed by 2022. “That’s when we’ll be in a position to build a flight version,” said Michael Paluszek, President of Princeton Satellite Systems, Inc. in Plainsboro NJ, which licensed the technology. Employing fusion to power rockets has long been a theoretical dream for space travel. PPPL and Princeton Satellite Systems are seeking funds for later versions from sources such as NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Paluszek is already looking far beyond Mars. DFD would enable ambitious robotic solar system missions at far less cost than current technology allows. For example, DFD would enable Europa robotic orbiter and landing missions or could allow resupply and refurbishment of the James Webb Space Telescope. DFD would make asteroid mining a reality and even permit deflection of asteroids that are a danger to Earth. DFD reactors could power future space station, moon bases and advanced earth observation platforms. DFD could even send robotic probes to the nearby stars, possibly for mission to orbit Earth like planets. DFD would revolutionize space exploration.

Researchers at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have developed a novel technique and device for rapidly pasteurizing eggs in the shell without damaging the delicate egg white. The process could lead to a sharp reduction in illnesses caused by egg-borne salmonella bacteria, a widespread public health concern. The new method uses radio frequency (RF) energy to transmit heat through the shell and into the yolk while the egg rotates. Streams of cool water simultaneously flow over the egg to protect the white. Researchers then bathe the egg in hot water to pasteurize the white and finish pasteurizing the yolk. The aim is to produce a pasteurized egg that is “hardly discernible from a fresh, non-pasteurized egg,” said David Geveke, lead scientist, at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania. His laboratory teamed up with PPPL engineer Christopher Brunkhorst, an expert in RF heating, to develop the device. The roughly shoebox-size prototype can pasteurize shell eggs in about one-third of the time that current methods require, Geveke said. Such methods place the eggs in heated water for about an hour and visibly change the appearance of the egg white. The RF process, by contrast, maintains the egg white's transparency. Federal regulations require pasteurization of raw liquid egg products used in commercially sold dishes such as ice cream, eggnog, sauces and dressings, but no similar rule covers eggs in the shell. Fewer than one-half of 1 percent of all shell eggs produced for retail sale in the United States are pasteurized, according to an estimate by the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA.

While only a small fraction of shell eggs may harbor salmonella, the public health risk posed by consumption of raw or undercooked eggs stems from the fact that millions of eggs are eaten each day. The hazard is greatest for people with weakened immune systems, including the very young, the very old and hospital patients. The USDA estimates that pasteurizing all U.S.-produced shell eggs could reduce the number of egg-borne salmonella illnesses by up to 85 percent, or more than 110,000 cases a year. “You have to raise the temperature high enough to kill bacteria, but not high enough to cook the egg,” Brunkhorst said. “You're really threading the needle on this.” Further complicating the process is the fact that the egg white is more sensitive to overheating than the yolk is. But the RF energy must pass through the white in order to reach the yolk, which requires a higher temperature to pasteurize. The system works through what is known as “ohmic heating,” in which the RF energy creates an electric current that produces heat inside the egg. The USDA prototype, which the agency has applied to patent, couples RF energy through the shell by placing electrodes against opposite sides of the egg. The egg rests on rollers that turn it to distribute the heat and cooling water evenly. “The goal is to reach a certain temperature for a certain time,” Brunkhorst said. Researchers then take a sample of the egg and do a bacteria count. “We've proven the effectiveness analytically,” Brunkhorst said. The USDA is in discussions with a licensee to commercialize the product. “We have received quite a bit of interest from industry,” Geveke said. “We expect to have a partner in the next few months.”

Ras Lab, LLC, a high tech woman owned small business, is devoted to the development of synthetic muscle for prosthetics and robotics and has been collaborating with the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) for over five years. Ras Labs makes Synthetic MuscleTM – electroactive polymer (EAP) based materials and actuators that contract, and expand with reversed electric polarity, at low voltage with minimal heat and noise signatures. Most EAPs bend. Ras Labs’ unique EAPs contract and expand and can be cycled repeatedly. Recently, Ras Lab has been invited to evaluate these shape morphing EAPs for resistance to radiation on the International Space Station (ISS) through the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).

The purpose of the CASIS-ISS-Ras Lab’s Project is to make synthetic muscle radiation resistant, also known as radiation hardened or rad hard. Synthetic MuscleTM has already proven cold hardiness down to 4 K and preliminary studies at PPPL indicate that these EAPs are also inherently radiation resistant. Ras Labs used PPPL’s facilities to evaluate Gen 3 and Gen 4 Synthetic MuscleTM with various additives and coatings and will then further evaluate these EAPs under the intense radiation environment of the ISS to demonstrate superb radiation resistance. Robust EAPs that can survive extreme temperatures and extremely radioactive conditions would provide dual use on earth and in space, including long-term space travel.

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory has plasma capabilities and gamma and neutron radiation sources available for evaluating how Synthetic MuscleTM will function when exposed to radiation in space. For the CASISISS-Ras Labs Project, the EAPs are being adhered to plasma treated titanium coupons. These shape morphing EAPS adhere well to oxygen plasma treated titanium, so the plasma treated metal coupons are serving as mounts for the EAPs. This is how the EAPs were secured in place during the preliminary radiation experiments at PPPL and how the EAPs will be secured, in addition to a protective structure and double containment, for the payload launch to the ISS and during the ISS National Laboratory experiment in its zero gravity, high solar and cosmic radiation environment.