Founded in 1976, the Center consolidated research carried out in MIT's academic departments, the Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory (FBML), and the Research Lab for Electronics (RLE). Since its founding, the PSFC has provided a home for work on a wide range of related topics covering fusion energy, plasma physics, plasma applications and magnet technology. In 2014, the magnet lab, which specializes in magnetic resonance spectroscopy, formally became part of the PSFC.

The synergy between ongoing research in plasma physics and the magnet technology developed at the FBML, led to construction of the Alcator experiment in the early 1970’s – the highest field magnetic confinement device in the world at that time. Success in that program and a growing national program in Fusion Energy provided the initial impetus for the Center’s formation. Once formed, the Center has attracted leading experts from MIT and from around the world.