One of the most common but least understood phenomena in the universe is an explosive process called magnetic reconnection. PPPL’s Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX) studies this process, which gives rise to astrophysical events that include auroras, solar flares and geomagnetic storms. The process occurs when the magnetic field lines in plasmas break and violently reconnect. Generating and studying reconnection under controlled laboratory conditions can yield insights into solar outbursts and the formation of stars, and to greater control of experimental fusion reactions.
The Laboratory's Magnetorotational Instability Experiment (MRI) seeks to understand a mysterious process that leads to the creation of celestial bodies and the collection of matter around black holes. Matter in the form of magnetized plasma rotates around celestial objects and is drawn into them when the rotation grows unstable. The MRI experiment mimics this process by rotating fluid in a cylindrical device in an effort to pinpoint the source of such instability.