Newswise – Tim Stevenson, an engineer who has been an integral part of major experiments during his 37-year career at the Princeton Plasma Laboratory (PPPL) of the United States Department of Energy (DOE), has been named Distinguished Engineering Fellow by PPPL for his contributions to two landmark experiments in the drive to bring the fusion energy that powers the sun and stars to Earth. The honor, presented by Steve Cowley, Director of PPPL, includes a prize of $ 7,500.
Stevenson received the award during the lab’s address on the state of the lab on December 17. It was cited “for excellence in the operation and management of heating systems on the upgrade of the National Spherical Torus Experience (NSTX-U) and the development and operation of these systems at the Support for the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) deuterium-tritium experiments, which produced a world record 10.7 million watts of controlled fusion power.
Stevenson said he was touched to receive the award. “I was able to contribute with the beam team to physics research and to the acquisition of new knowledge,” he said. “What an honor!”
Steve Cowley, Director of PPPL, announced the award during his State of the Lab address on December 17, which reviewed key developments over the past year. Three physicists: Raffi Nazikian, Jong-Kyu ark and Qiming Hu were also honored for their contributions to fusion energy research with the Kaul Foundation award for excellence in research and technological development in physics of plasmas. See the story here.
Cowley said during the online presentation that Stevenson is “one of the pillars of the lab.” “He has an incredible set of operations skills, we lean on him very hard, and he has broad shoulders and a calm demeanor,” Cowley added. âHe’s been running the Lab for decades now. He was one of the mainstays of TFTR and the world record in 1994. I just want to thank Tim for this amazing job. He’s our Distinguished Fellow and Tim, many more years please!
Michael Ford, head of engineering, said the award was well deserved. âTim has provided decades of exceptional service to PPPL, first as a technical expert and operator and more recently as a group leader, where he ensures that the lessons he has learned are transferred to the next generation of engineers and technicians, âsaid Ford. âHe most deserves this recognition. “
Bob Ellis, chief engineer of PPPL, who received the award in 2012, said he was happy to see Stevenson honored. âIt’s great to see Tim honored with this award,â said Ellis. âI have known him and have worked with him for over 30 years. He has played a major role in the development and operation of neutral TFTR beams in support of machine operations, and in particular the historic DT experiments. In-depth knowledge of our neutral beam systems was a great help when the TFTR beams were reassigned for NSTX and NSTX-U. His support for the NSTX-U recovery project is invaluable. “
Has worked on neutral beams since start in 1984
Stevenson has been working on neutral beams since joining PPPL in 1984, when the massive TFTR experiment began his research. He graduated from Lehigh University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a minor in economics in 1982. He then worked for two years as an electrical engineer at an original equipment manufacturer building excavation equipment for mines in open sky before joining PPPL.
Neutral beams are essential for fusion experiments, Stevenson explained. They act like a “torch”, projecting neutral particles in the ionized gas called plasma inside the fusion device called tokamak. The particles are then reionized and heat the plasma and shake the pot to keep the plasma in motion.
When Stevenson arrived at PPPL, TFTR was operating with a single beam line and the team was redesigning and improving the lines to make them work. The following year another line was added and in 1986 four beam lines were in operation.
In 1991, the machine shut down and the team were tasked with reconfiguring the beamlines for deuterium-tritium operations. Stevenson became the leader of the neutral beams the following year. The experiment started again with deuterium-tritium in 1993 and continued until 1997. In 1994, TFTR achieved a world power record that made headlines around the world. âWe have to build it, test it, install it, make it work, do the whole lifecycle to be able to make it work, and it’s kind of an old-fashioned hot rod process,â Stevenson said. âYou determine what is weak, make it strong. I’ve worked with great people, but it’s also been a fantastic engineering lifecycle process and I’ve been really deeply involved in it.
One of the neutral beams was reused for the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX) which started working in 1999. In addition to running the neutral beams, Stevenson was a physical operator working with physicists in the room. control to operate the device. He also branched out and started chairing design reviews and “got to see the amazing work product from our engineering department.” He was head of the project management office from 2010 to 2018.
Double the power of NSTX
When the NSTX was shut down to create a more powerful machine, Stevenson and the beam crew added a second neutral beam which doubled the machine’s heat output. With two neutral beams, the NSTX-U is capable of reaching 15 megawatts or 15 million watts of neutral power during experiments.
While continuing to lead the Heating group, which has more than 25 employees, Stevenson holds several positions at PPPL. He is the Associate Project Manager of the NSTX-U Recovery Project, which rebuilds several machine components, and the NSTX-U Engineering Operations Manager. He oversees the installation of new safety systems in accordance with the Federal Accelerator Safety Ordinance and is also in charge of commissioning the NSTX-U once it is ready to resume operations. In his spare time, he is the Emergency Director for the Emergency Response Organization. He also served as a tour guide, offering tours of the lab to everyone from Boy Scouts to students.
Stevenson is married to Dolores Stevenson, a director of PPPL who retired a few years ago after 36 years at the Laboratory. He enjoys painting in oils, playing the guitar, weight lifting, running and cycling, gardening and reading history books.
He remains excited about the many hats he wears as he looks back on his long career.
âI learned so much,â he says. âIt’s just unimaginable to have this kind of engineering career. It is absolutely unimaginable for me. It’s always like that !”