David Gates: Advanced concepts for stellarator fusion energy

Aug. 30, 2022

The improvements to the stellarator design, made by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), aim to ensure that the device can successfully trap atomic nuclei and force them to fuse in a process that releases large amounts of energy. The innovations are a step towards harnessing fusion energy to replace or supplement our reliance on carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

The first invention is a procedure for designing arrays of permanent magnets that produce a magnetic field, which the stellarator uses to confine a super-heated ionized gas, or plasma, that contains the atomic nuclei. The innovation involves a small number of unique magnet parts consisting of identically shaped cubes, each polarized along one of three unique orientations.

The second invention is a stellarator that utilizes a large number of small magnetic coils. The large number of coils, each with its own adjustable parameters, enables precise control of the plasma.

The final invention is a neutron source to improve the confinement of energetic particles in the plasma, thus boosting the likelihood of fusion reactions. The concept involves using negative ion neutral beams to accelerate deuterium to high energies and then injecting the beam into the optimized stellarator.

“We believe our new design concepts will help make the dream of fusion energy a reality.” — David Gates


Kenneth Hammond, Staff Research Physicist, PPPL; Caoxiang Zhu, University of Science and Technology of China

Michael Zarnstorff, Laboratory Chief Scientist, PPPL; Matthew Landreman, University of Maryland

Team members:
Graduate student Alex LeViness, Princeton University; Mechanical Engineer Keith Corrigan, PPPL

Development status:
Patent pending. License discussion in progress.

External funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Fusion Energy Sciences, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), and the Stellar Energy Foundation.

Learn more:
[email protected]

Licensing contact:
Laurie Bagley
Head of Tech Transfer
[email protected]