Plasma Science and Fusion Center

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IAP: How to explain fusion energy to anyone
Jan/26 Wed 11:00AM–12:00PM

Offered by children's book author Kathryn Hulick.

Fusion energy is complicated. It involves ionized gases, superconducting magnets, tritium breeding, and more. Although the science behind all of this is indeed complex, it's also exciting. With some creativity and enthusiasm, you can explain fusion energy in a way that anybody can understand. That's exactly what Kathryn Hulick did in her new book for kids and teens, Welcome to the Future: Robot Friends, Fusion Energy, Pet Dinosaurs, and More. The book explains how ten different technologies could transform the world in the future. It also challenges readers to think about how they want the world to change. In this talk, she'll read from her chapter about fusion energy. She'll explain how she approached researching and writing about this subject, including how she decided what to include and what to leave out. She'll offer tips on how to explain scientific research to journalists, students, or the public in a way that makes eyes light up and mental gears spin. Fusion energy isn't JUST complicated -- it's also fun. 

Bio: Kathryn Hulick is the author of two books for teens, Welcome to the Future: Robot Friends, Fusion Energy, Pet Dinosaurs, and More (Quarto, 2021), about how technology could change the world in the future, and Strange But True: 10 of the World's Greatest Mysteries Explained (Quarto, 2019), about the science and history of ghosts, aliens, and other mysterious things. As a freelance science journalist, she regularly contributes to Science News for Students, Muse magazine, and Front Vision, a Chinese-language science magazine for young people.  Hulick’s favorite part of writing about science is getting to speak with researchers in many different fields. Once, she spoke with an expert on parallel universes while he was shoveling snow from his driveway. Another time, she called a biologist who was out in the field in Africa, watching a herd of elephants. In addition to writing, she enjoys hiking, gardening, painting and reading. Hulick lives in Massachusetts with her husband, son and dog. Her website is You can follow her on Twitter @khulick or on Instagram or TikTok @kathryn_hulick

IAP: Recent exciting fusion results in ICF: how MIT-PSFC contributed
Jan/11 Tue 10:00AM–11:00AM

Experiments at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) have achieved a record 1.3 megajoule energy output substantially exceeding, for the first time, the energy absorbed by the fuel that was used to initiate the fusion process. Learn about these exciting results and how the Plasma Science and Fusion Center's High-Energy-Density Physics division contributed to this success.

Speakers: Patrick Adrian and Neel Kabadi, MIT PSFC

IAP: Studying the stuff of stars in the lab
Jan/18 Tue 10:00AM–11:00AM

Instabilities in the Crab Nebula jet; magnetic reconnection in the magnetopause; collisionless shocks in the universe, caused by supersonic plasma flows. These are just some of the astrophysical events  being studied at the PSFC using high-energy-density plasmas generated by laser facilities. Learn more about these phenomena and the laser facilities that support MIT's astrophysical research.

Laboratory astrophysics: Studying the stuff of stars in the lab
Speakers: Tim Johnson and Jacob Pearcy, PSFC

IAP: The SPARC tokamak: Predicting performance in the world's first burning plasma
Jan/28 Fri 02:00PM–03:00PM

Speaker: Nathan Howard

The SPARC tokamak is scheduled to begin operation in 2025 and will later become the first tokamak to achieve burning plasma conditions.  Its success will pave the way to the realization of fusion as an energy source.   In this talk we will cover the need for fusion energy development and the high field path to fusion.  In particular, we will present a historical overview of the models used to predict tokamak performance and will highlight some of the cutting-edge work going on at MIT that has been used to predict SPARC and increase our confidence in SPARC’s success.

For Zoom link contact:

IAP: The early 2022 fusion energy start-up landscape
Jan/27 Thu 11:00AM–12:00PM

Speaker: Sam Wurzel, Technology to Market Advisor, ARPA-E, U.S. Department of Energy

Over the past five years the number of fusion energy startups has doubled and private funding going to fusion companies has grown by a much larger factor. This talk will provide an overview of the fusion energy startup landscape, a discussion of their various approaches to fusion energy, and the historical context. For Zoom link contact: 

IAP: The long road to 20 tesla on the SPARC Toroidal Field Model Coil: A magnet origin story
Jan/21 Fri 01:00PM–02:00PM

The long road to 20 tesla on the SPARC Toroidal Field Model Coil: A magnet origin story

Speaker: Zach Hartwig

In the early morning hours of September 5 2021, the SPARC Toroidal Field Model Coil (TFMC), a joint project of the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center and Commonwealth Fusion Systems, achieved a peak magnetic field in excess of 20 tesla. This moment ushered in a new era of powerful high-field superconducting magnets for science and industrial applications and enabled a long-sought paradigm shift in fusion energy towards smaller, lower cost devices. But how did this come to be? What technologies and pioneers set the stage for the TFMC? How was it possible to execute a project of this scale and innovation in only two years? And why did this happen at MIT and not somewhere else? To answer these questions, this talk will attempt to map the century-long odyssey at MIT in high-field magnet research, development, and operations that laid the foundation for the success of the TFMC Project and then, with the technical and historical context firmly established, provide a more meaningful overview of the TFMC Project itself.