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Background: The tremendous energy produced by the stars is the the result of the conversion of mass into energy by fusion. The ultimate goal of fusion research is to develop fusion as an attractive source of energy here on earth. Stellarators are a class of magnetic fusion confinement devices characterized by three dimensional magnetic fields and plasma shapes and are the best-developed class of magnetic fusion devices after the tokamak which presently is the most prominent magnetic fusion confinement research device. One of the most difficult challenges of fusion research is to develop a confinement concept that will be able to operate continuously (i.e., steady state) without the operating disruptions that have thus far limited the operation of energy relevant experimental fusion devices to durations measured in seconds or, at best, minutes. Stellarators are one of the most promising magnetic fusion confinement concepts with regards to steady state operation. The stellarator concept has greatly advanced since its invention by Dr. Lyman Spitzer, the founding director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), during the 1950s. A traditional stellarator uses only external magnetic fields to shape and confine the plasma. The National Compact Stellarator Experiment (NCSX) is the first of a new class of stellarators known as compact stellarators. The differentiating feature of a compact stellarator is the use of plasma current in combination with external fields to accomplish shaping and confinement. This combination permits a more compact device. The NCSX project is managed by PPPL in partnership with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
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