The Princeton Site Office oversees the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory renown as a world-class fusion energy research laboratory dedicated to developing the scientific and technological knowledge base for fusion energy as a safe, economical and environmentally attractive energy source for the world’s long-term energy requirements.
Princeton University manages PPPL, which is part of the national laboratory system funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through the Office of Science. The fiscal year 2013 budget is approximately $86 million. The number of full-time employees is 454, not including 38 graduate students, as well as additional subcontractors and visiting research staff. The Laboratory is sited on 88 acres of Princeton University’s James Forrestal Campus, about three miles from the main campus.
Through its efforts to build and operate magnetic fusion devices, PPPL 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 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.
The Laboratory’s graduate education and science education programs provide educational opportunities for students and teachers from elementary school through postgraduate studies.
Magnetic fusion research at Princeton began in 1951 under the code name Project Matterhorn. Lyman Spitzer, Jr., professor of astronomy at Princeton University, for many years had been involved in the study of very hot rarified gases in interstellar space. He launched the study of thermonuclear fusion with support from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and Princeton University’s controlled fusion effort was born.
In 1958, magnetic fusion research was declassified, allowing all nations to share their results openly. The name of the project was changed to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in 1961. The collaborative nature of fusion research continues today, with PPPL at the forefront.