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Dario Panici

Department: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Faculty Adviser: Egemen Kolemen
Year of Study: G2
Undergraduate School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Undergraduate Major: Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering

Personal Bio

Hi, I'm Dario Panici, I'm from New Lenox, Illinois and I did my undergraduate at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There, I was able to get involved in experimental research my freshman and sophomore years, where I researched the retention of hydrogen gas in lithium, to better inform fusion reactor wall designs, and computational research in plasma chemistry my junior and senior years.

Here at Princeton I am amazed at not only the great academic community and the beautiful campus, but also at the fact that there is not a single corn field in sight (I grew up basically surrounded by corn in Illinois!)

I like to think I am a patient guy, and really enjoy being able to help and teach others, and I love talking about my own work and interests as well (nuclear fusion energy!).

Outside of academic things, I love playing soccer, and could spend hours just juggling a soccer ball by myself (though of course it is much more fun with others)

Fun Fact

My favorite place to travel is Italy! Specifically my parents are both from Italy, so I love being able to visit their hometowns and see my family that is still over there. And the food is just amazing as well!

Research Pitch

I am currently involved in research on stellarator MHD equilibrium and stability, for applications in reactor designs for nuclear fusion energy. Nuclear fusion is the process by which two light isotopes (usually isotopes of Hydrogen) are able to overcome the electrostatic repulsion between the two nuclei and fuse together, forming a single heavier nucleus and releasing a large amount of energy. In the sun, gravity is enough to compress the hydrogen enough to get it to fuse, but on Earth, the main way to achieve fusion is to heat up a hydrogen plasma (hot, ionized gas) to millions of degrees Celsius! No material on earth can stand that hot of temperatures, so to contain our hydrogen plasma we must levitate it using magnets, and one such device designed to contain the plasma is called a stellarator. The magnetic field must be exactly right so that the plasma stays stable and confined in the device (at equilibrium, so at a steady-state), which is why research must be conducted to find stable designs. To do this, I use computational codes to construct these equilibria according to the laws of magnetohydrodynamics (fancy word for conducting fluids). I am excited about the potential results of my research because knowing what equilibria are stable is an important step in informing the design of a fusion reactor, and an operational fusion reactor must be able to know if the plasma it currently has is stable or not, so knowing the equilibrium in real-time is even more important to allow stable operation. All of this is researched in the pursuit of making nuclear fusion energy a viable energy source as it is clean, has practically limitless fuel (deuterium, a hydrogen isotope found in seawater!), and produces little waste.

Plans for Summer 2022

Confirmed pairing; no longer looking for a mentee.

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