Summer Research Program for Secondary Science Teachers

Neil Farley

Bronx High School of Science


How is a Tokamak used to produce controlled nuclear fusion?

9th grade Physical Science

This lesson will make use of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s web site called IPPEX or Internet Plasma Physics Experience. IPPEX can be found at the following address:

[Teaching Standard D- Make accessible science media]


How is a Tokamak used to produce controlled nuclear fusion? [9-12 Content Standard B- Structure of atoms]


Using IPPEX slide show, show how fossil fuels will begin to run out during the next 50 years.

Discuss what would happen if we ran out of energy.


1. Elicit the need for alternative energy sources. [9-12 Content Standard F- Natural resources]

2. Discuss current alternate energy sources (e.g. solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, nuclear fission) and some of the problems associated with them (geographical advantages, safety, waste etc.). [9-12 Content Standard F- Natural and human induced hazards]

3. Elicit nuclear fusion as an alternate energy source.

4. Explain fusion using IPPEX slide show, IPPEX interactive physics modules, a demonstration of a plasma and magnetic manipulation of a plasma. The latter can be demonstrated using a plasma generator which is available at science supply shops or a fluorescent light bulb which has the coating removed.

5. Explain what a Tokamak is using IPPEX slides. [9-12 Content Standard E- Understandings about science and technology]

6. Use the IPPEX Virtual Tokamak. This is like a video game which allows students to adjust various input parameters resulting in different amounts of fusion power output.

7. Use the IPPEX Data Analysis module. This allows the students to analyze actual Tokamak data.

It allow them to plot various input and output parameters. Give extra credit to any student who gets their name on the "Wall of Fame."

8. Use the IPPEX "Ask a scientist" module to email questions to actual Princeton University scientists.

[Teaching Standard D- Identify/use resources outside the school]

Summary. [Teaching Standard B- Orchestrate scientific discourse]

1. Why is fusion important?

2. Contrast uncontrolled and controlled fusion?

3. How can fusion be used to generate electricity?

4. What are some problems which must be solved before fusion power can become readily available?


Return to Physics Lesson Plan Menu