Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough with Stellarator

Patti MayonnaiseDecember 17, 2015572 Views
Photo Credit: News.com.au Photo Credit: News.com.au

According to German scientists, we have officially reached a milestone in the quest to develop energy from nuclear fusion. This is crucial as it has the potential to be a limitless source which is both safe and cheap. The proposed success is said to be a culmination of a project spanning two decades. Nuclear fusion is comprised of the fusing of atoms together in order to generate energy. It’s a process which is similar to that of our Sun. Contrastingly to nuclear fission (where atoms are split apart,) this is not dangerous and doesn’t produce long term waste.

Following an expenditure of approximately one billion euros and nine years of construction, physicists dedicated to the German stellarator project stated on Thursday that they had momentarily generated a super heated helium plasma inside of a vessel. This is a critical point within the experimental process. Hans-Stephan Bosch of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Greifswald says, “We’re very satisfied. Everything went according to plan.”

However, even with all of its promise, nuclear fusion seems to be proving rather complicated and extremely expensive to attain. In order to fuse nuclei, atoms must be heated to temperatures of more than 100 million degrees. This kind of fusion takes place in a special vacuum chamber which allows atoms to get heated in an ionized gas called a plasma. They are then held floating in place by superconducting magnets. This prevents them from touching the vessel’s cold sides.

Image via Nerdist.com

Image via Nerdist.com

The next thing the teams plans to try will be to extend the duration of the plasma so as to locate the optimum way of reproducing it. By next year, they hope to switch to hydrogen (which is the actual study’s target) instead of helium.

 

 

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