The Princeton Site Office is charged with the oversight of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), a world-class fusion energy research facility. PPPL has been dedicated to developing scientific and technological knowledge for fusion energy since its founding 1951. Initially, PPPL was a classified magnetic fusion research project supported by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. This project, code named Project Matterhorn, was established on Princeton University’s James Forrestal Campus. Here, Lyman Spitzer, Jr., a professor of astronomy at Princeton University, took this opportunity to launch the study of thermonuclear fusion. In 1958, magnetic fusion research was declassified, allowing all nations to share their results openly. Later in 1961, the Laboratory underwent a name change, becoming what we now know as Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.
In 1977, the support of PPPL transferred from the U.S Atomic Energy Commission to the newly named U.S. Department of Energy. PPPL now exists as a member of a national laboratory system funded through the Office of Science. Princeton University operates PPPL with a Management and Operating Contract IAW FAR 17.6. PPPL is also a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC). In Fiscal Year 2016, the Lab was provided with over $120 million in funding, which was used to further collaborative projects at the lab and provide opportunities to the community. The Laboratory’s graduate education and science education programs provide educational opportunities for students and teachers from elementary school through postgraduate studies. The number of full-time employees and visiting research staff is over 500.
Today, PPPL continues to build and operate magnetic fusion devices, the most notable being the National Spherical Torus Experiment - Upgrade (NSTX-U). The Laboratory has gained extensive capabilities in a host of disciplines including advanced computational simulations, vacuum technology, mechanics, materials science, electronics, computer technology, and high-voltage power systems. In addition, PPPL scientists and engineers are applying knowledge gained in fusion research to other theoretical and experimental areas, including ITER, in the development of plasma thrusters and the propagation of intense beams of ions. The Laboratory’s Office of Technology Transfer assists industry, other universities, and state and local government in transferring these technologies to the commercial sector and sharing findings with the rest of the world.