HU School of Science Awarded a $1.7M Grant from the Simons Foundation to Help Develop a New Stellarator Experiment Group to Advance Research in Fusion Plasma Science

Written By Hampton University

The Hampton University School of Science has been awarded a $1.76M grant from the Simons Foundation to help develop a new Stellarator Experiment Group to advance research in Fusion Plasma Science.

“We are grateful to the Simons Foundation for their support of the great strides in research happening here in the School of Science,” said Isi Ero-Johnson, Ph.D., dean, HU School of Science. “The Simons Foundation grant is focused on undergraduate and graduate education to engage underrepresented students, scientists, and engineers in research of worldwide importance, in collaboration with internationally known researchers and ultimately introducing a new and diverse set of expertise into the fusion workforce.”

The funding will support the design and construction of a stellarator experiment, STAR_Lite, in partnership with the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). The Stellarator for Research and Training (STAR_Lite) program will be organized around long-term national and international collaborations with world-leading plasma scientists to enhance Hampton’s contributions to the advancement of fusion plasma science.

The stellarator is one of the technologies scientists believe could lead to real-world fusion power. A stellarator is a machine that uses magnetic fields to confine plasma in the shape of a donut, called a torus. These magnetic fields allow scientists to control the plasma particles and create the right conditions for fusion reactions.

“Fusion power will provide the world with safe, clean, and renewable power,” said Dr. Calvin Lowe, professor, department of physics, School of Science. “The pursuit of controlled thermonuclear fusion as a near endless source of pollution-free electricity is approaching fruition. After 60+ years, a stellarator based fusion power plant is within reach.”

Although STAR_Lite is in its early conceptual design phase, it is envisaged that the primary coils will have an open geometry, likely helical, to study the issues and benefits of an open-access design for experimental flexibility and for power-plant maintenance. The outcomes of

this three-year program include the design and construction of a complete stellarator device, having mapped the magnetic flux surfaces and preparing for a first plasma operational phase.

Hampton has enjoyed a reputation as an institution that supports the STEM disciplines and focuses on interdisciplinary exploration and utilization of cutting-edge technologies. In its bold “Elevating Hampton Excellence” 10-year strategic plan, the institution is working to double the number of Hampton graduates who earn doctorates in STEM fields.

Hampton University, in southeastern Virginia, ranks in the top 8% of universities worldwide and is a respected leader in academic and scientific excellence, creativity, and integrity in preparing students to diversify the STEM workforce. Recognized as the best private college in Virginia, the institution is leading efforts to reimagine the Hampton academic experience to develop innovative 21st century leaders of character for our community, our nation, and our world.

“The Simons Foundation is proud to partner with Hampton University in this promising field of fusion plasma science,” said David Spergel, president, Simons Foundation. “The Star_Lite project will not only be transformational for the scientists, but also Hampton students will have the opportunity to make contributions to the advancement of fusion plasma science.”

The Simons Foundation’s mission is to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences. Since its founding in 1994 by Jim and Marilyn Simons, the foundation has been a champion of basic science through grant funding, support for research and public engagement. The Simons Foundation believes in asking big questions and provides sustained support to researchers working to unravel the mysteries of the universe.

Founded in 1868, Hampton University has been the Standard of Excellence in higher education for over 150 years. Rich in history and tradition, Hampton University is recognized as one of the top historically black colleges and universities in the world, providing a broad range of technical, liberal arts and graduate degree programs. HU is a tightly-knit community of learners and educators representing 49 states and 35 territories nations.