Nuclear Fusion Could Soon Become Reality In Germany

By Vlad Tverdohleb, Parent Herald February 04, 01:03 am

Germany takes a big step toward making nuclear fusion a reality. The experiments started at the Wendelstein 7-X fusion device could prove the feasibility of the nuclear fusion power that has been the dream of scientists since the 1950s.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined German scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Greifswald to assist to the experiments. According to a press release, the researchers injected hydrogen into the Wendelstein 7-X fusion device and were able to heat the plasma gas.

The experiment is aimed to prove that the design is capable of being used as a power plant, even if the device will not produce yet energy from the plasma. Hans-Stephan Bosch, whose division works on the Wendelstein 7-X, explained that the device produced hydrogen plasma with a lifetime of a quarter of a second and a temperature of 80 million degrees.

Until now, two different designs for fusion power plants have been tested in the world: the tokamak and the stellarator. The tokamak design is tested at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France and the stellarator Wendelstein 7-X is tested in Germany. 

According the press release, only the tokamak part of the ITER project is able to produce plasma that supplies energy. The experiments begun Wednesday in Germany could prove that stellarator design could also produce comparable plasma confinement and heat.

The Christian Science Monitor shared that scientists working on the Wendelstein 7-X will heat gas to plasma and slowly increase the time of the discharges and the temperature over the next four years. The aim is to achieve discharges lasting 30 minutes and full heating power of 20 megawatts. If the experiments will be successful, Wendelstein 7-X would show a large advantage over tokamaks because stellarators can work continuously.

Before increasing the time of discharges, the initial phase of experiments will continue until mid-March. According to CBS News, David Anderson, a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin, declared that the startup of the machine has shown impressive results and the Wendelstein 7-X is a remarkable achievement that brings the worldwide fusion closer to reality.

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