The institute was founded in 1960 as the Institute of Plasma Physics GmbH with the Max Planck Society and W. Heisenberg acting as partners. In 1971, it was fully integrated into the Max Planck Society. In 1961, the institute entered into an agreement with EURATOM, making it an associate of the European Fusion Programme. The institute is one of the largest centers of fusion research in Europe and employs a staff of 1000.
Research activities are concerned with investigating the principles underlying a fusion power plant, which, similar to the sun, produces energy through nuclear fusion reactions. As a megascience facility, the institute is a member of the Helmholtz Society German Research Center.
Since 1988, the institute has hosted the planning group of the international experimental reactor ITER. An affiliate of the institute was established in Berlin in 1992, continuing the work on fusion carried out by the former East German Academy of Science´s Central Institute of Electron Physics, which was disbanded in 1991. In the context of establishing institutes in the eastern part of Germany, branch institute was set up in Greifswald in 1994 to take over the essential activities of in the area of stellarator work.
The institute carries out research in twelve scientific areas, e.g. confinement of high-temperature hydrogen plasmas in magnetic fields, development of methods for plasma heating and diagnostics, systems studies, plasma theory, plasma-wall interaction, plasma technology, and surface physics. In 1999, the institute expanded into the field of materials technology, which concerns the investigation, development, and synthesis of materials for the fusion facilities.
In Garching, the institute operates the Tokamak ASDEX Upgrade. The stellarator WENDELSTEIN 7-X, is currently under construction at the branch institute in Greifswald. The institute also participates in activities at JET, the common European facility in Great Britain, and in preparations for the ITER international fusion test reactor.
The largest German fusion facility is ASDEX Upgrade and it investigates crucial problems in fusion research under reactor-like conditions. It provides an essential contribution to the preparations for the ITER test reactor, which for the first time should produce energy-supplying plasma. A decision about the construction of ITER will be met in 2004. The institute wants to take part in the scientific use of the experimental reactor during its operation.
In addition to the Tokamak, the institute is investigating the stellarator type of fusion device. The WENDELSTEIN 7-X stellarator should demonstrate the feasibility of this type of facility for a fusion power plant as of 20010. Its performance will decide whether successor demonstration power plants to ITER should be built along the lines of the stellarator design, or whether the Tokamak design should maintain its leading role.
Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik
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Further information: www.ipp.mpg.de/