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  • richardmitnick 5:49 pm on January 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology,   

    From PPPL: “10 Facts You Should Know About Fusion Energy” 


    PPPL

    January 25, 2016
    PPPL Office of Communications
    Email: PPPL_OOC@pppl.gov
    Phone: 609-243-2755

    1.It’s natural. In fact, it’s abundant throughout the universe. Stars – and there are billions and billions of them – produce energy by fusion of light atoms.
    2.It’s safe. There are no dangerous byproducts. There is very little radioactive waste, and what waste there is requires only decades to decay, not thousands of years. Further, any byproducts are not suitable for production of nuclear weapons.
    3.It’s environmentally friendly. Fusion can help slow climate change. There are no carbon emissions so fusion will not contribute to a concentration of greenhouse gases that heat the Earth. And it helps keep the air clean.
    4.It’s conservation-friendly. Fusion helps conserve natural resources because it does not rely on traditional means of generating electricity, such as burning coal.
    5.It’s international. Fusion can help reduce conflicts among countries vying for natural resources due to fuel supply imbalances.
    6.It’s unlimited. Fusion fuel – deuterium and tritium – is available around the world. Deuterium can be readily extracted from ordinary water. Tritium can be produced from lithium, which is available from land deposits or from seawater.
    7.It’s industrial scale. Fusion can power cities 24 hours a day regardless of weather.
    8.It’s exciting. Fusion produces important scientific and engineering breakthroughs and spinoffs in its own and other fields.
    9.It’s achievable. Fusion is produced in laboratories around the world and research is devoted to making it practicable.
    10.It’s the Future. Fusion can transform the way the world produces energy.

    Two possible routes to fusion energy:

    PPPL NSTX
    PPPL NSTX tokamak

    Wendelstein 7-AS
    Wendelstein 7-x stellarator fusion reactor, Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics

    See the full article here .

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    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University. PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:58 pm on January 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology,   

    From MIT: “New finding may explain heat loss in fusion reactors” 


    MIT News

    January 21, 2016
    David L. Chandler, MIT News Office

    Solving a longstanding mystery, MIT experiments reveal two forms of turbulence interacting.

    PPPL NSTX
    NSTX tokamak at PPPL
    One of the biggest obstacles to making fusion power practical — and realizing its promise of virtually limitless and relatively clean energy — has been that computer models have been unable to predict how the hot, electrically charged gas inside a fusion reactor behaves under the intense heat and pressure required to make atoms stick together.

    The key to making fusion work — that is, getting atoms of a heavy form of hydrogen called deuterium to stick together to form helium, releasing a huge amount of energy in the process — is to maintain a sufficiently high temperature and pressure to enable the atoms overcome their resistance to each other. But various kinds of turbulence can stir up this hot soup of particles and dissipate some of the intense heat, and a major problem has been to understand and predict exactly how this turbulence works, and thus how to overcome it.

    A long-standing discrepancy between predictions and observed results in test reactors has been called “the great unsolved problem” in understanding the turbulence that leads to a loss of heat in fusion reactors. Solving this discrepancy is critical for predicting the performance of new fusion reactors such as the huge international collaborative project called ITER, under construction in France.

    ITER Tokamak
    ITER tokamak

    Now, researchers at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, in collaboration with others at the University of California at San Diego, General Atomics, and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, say that they have found the key. In a result so surprising that the researchers themselves found it hard to believe their own results at first, it turns out that interactions between turbulence at the tiniest scale, that of electrons, and turbulence at a scale 60 times larger, that of ions, can account for the mysterious mismatch between theory and experimental results.

    The new findings are detailed in a pair of papers published in the journals Nuclear Fusion and AIP Physics of Plasmas, by MIT research scientist Nathan Howard, doctoral student Juan Ruiz Ruiz, Cecil and Ida Green Associate Professor in Engineering Anne White, and 12 collaborators.

    “I’m extremely surprised” by the new results, White says. She adds that it took a thorough examination of the detailed results of computer simulations, along with matching experimental observations, to show that the counterintuitive result was real.


    Watch/download the mp4 video here .
    For the first time, researchers show two types of turbulence within plasma that cause significant heat loss. Solving this problem could take the world a step closer to fusion power. Video: Melanie Gonick/MIT (plasma simulations and Alcator C-mod footage courtesy of General Atomics and MIT PSFC).

    Persisting eddies

    The expectation by physicists for more than a decade had been that turbulence associated with ions (atoms with an electric charge) was so much larger than turbulence caused by electrons — nearly two orders of magnitude smaller — that the latter would be completely smeared out by the much larger eddies. And even if the smaller eddies survived the larger-scale disruptions, the conventional thinking went, these electron-scale whirls would be so much smaller that their effects would be negligible.

    The new findings show that this conventional wisdom was wrong on both counts. The two scales of turbulence do indeed coexist, the researchers found, and they interact with each other so strongly that it’s impossible to understand their effects without including both kinds in any simulations.

    However, it requires prodigious amounts of computer time to run simulations that encompass such widely disparate scales, explains Howard, who is the lead author on the paper detailing these simulations. Accomplishing each simulation required 15 million hours of computation, carried out by 17,000 processors over a period of 37 days at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center — making this team the biggest user of that facility for the year. Using an ordinary MacBook Pro to run the full set of six simulations that the team carried out, Howard estimates, would have taken 3,000 years.

    But the results were clear, and startling. Far from being eliminated by the larger-scale turbulence, the tiny eddies produced by electrons continue to be clearly visible in the results, stretched out into long ribbons that wind around the donut-shaped vacuum chamber that characterizes a tokamak fusion reactor. Despite the temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius inside the plasma, these ribbon-like eddies persist for long enough to influence how heat gets dissipated from the swirling mass — a determining factor in how much fusion can actually take place inside the reactor.

    Previously, scientists had thought that simply simulating turbulence separately at the two different size scales and adding the results together would give a close enough approximation, but they kept finding discrepancies between those predictions and the actual results seen in test reactors. The new multiscale simulation, Howard says, matches the real results much more accurately. Now, researchers at General Atomics are taking these new results and using them to develop a simplified, streamlined simulation that could be run on an ordinary laptop computer, Howard says.

    Independent evidence

    In addition to the theoretical simulations, MIT graduate student Ruiz Ruiz, lead author of the second paper, has analyzed a series of experiments at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, which provided direct evidence of electron-scale turbulence that supports the new simulations. The results offer clear, independent evidence that the electron-scale turbulence really does play an important role, and they show that this is a general phenomenon, not one specific to a particular reactor design.

    That’s because Howard’s simulations were based on MIT’s Alcator C-Mod tokamak reactor, whereas Ruiz Ruiz’s results were from a different type of reactor called the National Spherical Torus Experiment, which has a significantly different configuration.

    Understanding the details of these different mechanisms of turbulence has been “an outstanding challenge” in the field of fusion research, White says, and these new findings could greatly improve the understanding of what’s really going on inside the 10 tokamak research reactors that exist around the world, as well as in future experimental reactors under construction or planning.

    “The evidence from both of these papers, that electron energy transport in tokamaks has a significant contribution from both ion and electron-scale turbulence and that multiscale simulations are needed to predict the transport, is profoundly important,” says Gary Staebler, a researcher at General Atomics who was not involved in this work. “Both of these papers are very high quality,” he adds. “The execution and analysis of the experiments is first class.”

    The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

    See the full article here .

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    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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  • richardmitnick 4:45 pm on January 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology, ,   

    From PPPL: “PPPL physicists simulate innovative method for starting up tokamaks without using a solenoid” 


    PPPL

    Temp 1
    PPPL Scientist Francesca Poli. (Photo by Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications)

    Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have produced self-consistent computer simulations that capture the evolution of an electric current inside fusion plasma without using a central electromagnet, or solenoid. The simulations of the process, known as non-inductive current ramp-up, were performed using TRANSP, the gold-standard code developed at PPPL. The results were published in October 2015 in Nuclear Fusion. The research was supported by the DOE Office of Science.

    In traditional donut-shaped tokamaks, a large solenoid runs down the center of the reactor.

    PPPL NSTX
    PPPL/NSTX-U tokamak

    By varying the electrical current in the solenoid scientists induce a current in the plasma. This current starts up the plasma and creates a second magnetic field that completes the forces that hold the hot, charged gas together.

    But spherical tokamaks, a compact variety of fusion reactor that produces high plasma pressure with relatively low magnetic fields, have little room for solenoids. Spherical tokamaks look like cored apples and have a smaller central hole for the solenoid than conventional tokamaks do. Physicists, therefore, have been trying to find alternative methods for producing the current that starts the plasma and completes the magnetic field in spherical tokamaks.

    One such method is known as coaxial helicity injection (CHI). During CHI, researchers switch on an electric coil that runs beneath the tokamak. Above this coil is a gap that opens into the tokamak’s vacuum vessel and circles the tokamak’s floor. The switched-on electrical current produces a magnetic field that connects metal plates on either side of the gap.

    Researchers next puff gas through the gap and discharge a spark across the two plates. This process causes magnetic reconnection — the process by which the magnetic fields snap apart and reconnect.

    2
    Magnetic reconnection animation

    This reconnection creates a magnetic bubble that fills the tokamak and produces the vital electric current that starts up the plasma and completes the magnetic field.

    This current must be nurtured and fed. According to lead author Francesca Poli, the new computer simulations show that the current can best be sustained by injecting high-harmonic radio-frequency waves (HHFWs) and neutral beams into the plasma.

    HHFW’s are radio-frequency waves that can heat both electrons and ions. The neutral beams, which consist of streams of hydrogen atoms, become charged when they enter the plasma and interact with the ions. The combination of the HHFWs and neutral beams increases the current from 300 kiloamps to 1 mega amp.

    But neither HHFWs nor neutral beams can be used at the start of the process, when the plasma is relatively cool and not very dense. Poli found that HHFWs would be more effective if the plasma were first heated by electron cyclotron waves, which transfer energy to the electrons that circle the magnetic field lines.

    “With no electron cyclotron waves you would have to pump in four megawatts of HHFW power to create 400 kiloamps of current,” she said. “With these waves you can get the same amount of current by pumping in only one megawatt of power.

    “All of this is important because it’s hard to control the plasma at the start-up,” she added. “So the faster you can control the plasma, the better.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University. PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:14 pm on January 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology, , Sandia's comming Thor hammer   

    From Sandia: “Thor’s hammer to crush materials at 1 million atmospheres” 


    Sandia Lab

    January 5, 2016
    Neal Singer
    nsinger@sandia.gov
    (505) 845-7078

    Temp 1
    MAKE READY FOR THOR — Sandia National Laboratories technician Eric Breden installs a transmission cable on the silver disk that is the new pulsed-power machine’s central powerflow assembly. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    A new Sandia National Laboratories accelerator called Thor is expected to be 40 times more efficient than Sandia’s Z machine, the world’s largest and most powerful pulsed-power accelerator, in generating pressures to study materials under extreme conditions.

    Sandia Z machine
    Sandia’s Z machine

    “Thor’s magnetic field will reach about one million atmospheres, about the pressures at Earth’s core,” said David Reisman, lead theoretical physicist of the project.

    Though unable to match Z’s 5 million atmospheres, the completed Thor will be smaller — 2,000 rather than 10,000 square feet — and will be considerably more efficient due to design improvements that use hundreds of small capacitors instead of Z’s few large ones.

    Remarkable structural transformation

    This change resembles the transformation of computer architecture in which a single extremely powerful computer chip was replaced with many relatively simple chips working in unison, or to the evolution from several high-voltage vacuum tubes to computers powered by a much larger number of low-voltage solid-state switches.

    A major benefit in efficiency is that while Z’s elephant-sized capacitors require large switches to shorten the machine’s electrical pulse from a microsecond to 100 nanoseconds, with its attendant greater impact, the small switches that service Thor’s capacitors discharge current in a 100-nanosecond pulse immediately, obviating energy losses inevitable when compressing a long pulse.

    The new architecture also allows finer control of the pulse sent to probe materials.

    Toward a more perfect pulse shape

    Said Reisman, “Individual cables from pairs of capacitors separate our signals. By combining these signals in any manner we choose, we can tailor very precise pulses of electrical current.”

    Tailored pulse shapes are needed to avoid shocks that would force materials being investigated to change state. “We want the material to stay in its solid state as we pass it through increasing pressures,” he said. “If we shock the material, it becomes a hot liquid and doesn’t give us information.”

    Another advantage for Thor in such testing is that each capacitor’s transit time can be not only controlled to the nanosecond level but isolated from the other capacitors. “In 30 seconds on a computer, we can determine the shape of the pulse that will produce a desired compression curve, whereas it takes days to determine how to create the ideal pulse shape for a Z experiment,” Reisman said.

    Furthermore, because Thor can fire so frequently — less hardware damage per shot requires fewer technicians and enables more rapid rebooting — researchers will have many more opportunities to test an idea, he said.

    But there’s more at stake than extra experiments or even new diagnostics. There’s testing the efficiency of a radically different accelerator design.

    Radical shoeboxes

    Thor’s shoebox-sized units, known as “bricks,” contain two capacitors and a switch. The assembled unit is a fourth-generation descendant of a device jointly developed by Sandia and the Institute of High-Current Electronics in Tomsk, Russia, called a linear transformer driver (LTD). The original LTD units, also called “bricks,” had no cables to separate outputs, but instead were linked together to add voltage as well as current. (Because Thor’s bricks are isolated from each other, they add current but not voltage.)

    Everything depends upon adding bricks. Sandia is building Thor in stages and already has assembled materials. Two intermediate stages are expected in 2016. These will comprise 24 bricks (Thor 24) and 48 bricks (Thor 48). “These are ‘first-light’ machines that will be used for initial experiments and validation,” Reisman said.

    Thor 144, when completed, should reach 1 million atmospheres of pressure.

    2
    Sandia National Laboratories technician Tommy Mulville installs a gas exhaust line for a switch at Thor’s brick tower racks. In the background, beyond the intermediate support towers, technician Eric Breden makes ready an electrical cable for insertion in the central power flow assembly. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    Sandia manager Bill Stygar said more powerful LTD versions of Z ultimately could bring about thermonuclear ignition and even high-yield fusion.

    Ignition would be achieved when the fusion target driven by the machine releases more energy in fusion than the electrical energy delivered by the machine to the target. High yield would be achieved when the fusion energy released exceeds the energy initially stored by the machine’s capacitors.

    High-yield fusion

    A paper published Sept. 9, in Physical Review Special Topics – Accelerators and Beams, co-authored by Reisman, lead electrical engineer Brian Stoltzfus, Stygar, lead mechanical engineer Kevin Austin and colleagues, outlined Sandia’s plan for Thor. A Nov. 30 paper, led by Stygar in the same journal, discusses the possibility of building next-generation LTD-powered accelerators to achieve ignition and high-yield fusion.

    The academic community also is interested in Thor’s architecture. “Part of the motivation for Thor was to develop affordable and compact machines that could be operated at universities,” said Reisman. Institutions that have expressed interest include Cornell University, University of California San Diego, Imperial College London and the Carnegie Institution.

    Thor’s theoretical design was supported by Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development office; later engineering details and hardware were supported by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Science Campaign.

    See the full article here .

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    Sandia National Laboratory

    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
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  • richardmitnick 10:56 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology,   

    From PPPL: “A collaboration bears fruit as W7-X celebrates first research plasma” 


    PPPL

    December 14, 2015
    Jeanne Jackson DeVoe

    1
    Celebrating the first plasma in the W7-X are from left to right: Sam Lazerson, Novimir Pablant, and David Gates

    Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and other U.S. institutions joined colleagues from around the world at the celebration for the first plasma of the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) stellarator at the Max Planck Institute [for Plasma Physics] in Greifswald, Germany. The Dec. 10 event heralded the start of the largest and most advanced fusion experiment of its kind in the world and could yield promising solutions to some of the most difficult challenges in developing fusion energy.

    Wendelstein 7-AS
    Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X)

    PPPL physicists David Gates, Novimir Pablant, and Samuel Lazerson, who have collaborated on the machine for the past five years, were in Greifswald to witness the celebration firsthand. They joined dozens of researchers and a dozen news crews in the W7-X control room as it counted down from 10 to the first plasma.

    2
    An image of the first plasma flashed briefly on a large overhead screen and then resolved into quadruple images of the white, glowing plasma.

    Meanwhile, a dozen or so staffers at PPPL got up early to watch the event, which was live-streamed to the Laboratory at 7 a.m.

    The first helium plasma in the machine lasted a tenth of a second and achieved a temperature of 1 million degrees, according to the Max Planck Institute website. That was enough to declare success after more than 10 years of construction and nearly 20 years of planning as well as an investment of 1 billion Euros (1.09 billion dollars) and more than a million hours of assembly.

    “The energy was intense,” said Lazerson, who has been working at the W7-X since March with a team that has been designing and analyzing experiments that map the stellarator’s magnetic field. “Everyone was hopeful and very excited every time there was a new pulse. So it was fun!”

    Gates, the stellarator physics leader at PPPL, was equally excited. “It’s very gratifying to have the opportunity to work on such an exciting experiment,” he said. Added Pablant, who led PPPL’s development of an X-ray crystal spectrometer for W7-X: “They’ve been very welcoming to us as part of the team. It’s a very good feeling to be here.”

    Glen Wurden, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) was also at the event. “It’s great!” he said. “It’s a beautiful lab and a wonderful machine and we’re excited to be part of it.”

    Nothing but a win-win

    “W7-X is extremely important,” said Hutch Neilson, head of Advanced Projects at PPPL. “We are fortunate to be a part of it and they are fortunate to have us as a partner. This is nothing but a win-win. Stellarator research is that important and right now this is our opportunity to be involved at the world forefront of stellarator research.”

    Stellarators are fusion devices that use twisting, potato chip-shaped magnetic coils to confine the plasma that fuels fusion reactions in a three-dimensional and steady-state magnetic field. The W7-X will be the first optimized stellarator to confine a hot plasma in a steady state for up to 30 minutes. In doing so, it will demonstrate that an optimized stellarator could be a model for future fusion reactors.

    Donut-shaped tokamaks have traditionally been better than stellarators at confining plasma at the high temperature and density needed to create fusion energy.

    PPPL NSTX
    PPL/NSTX tokamak

    But the W7-X could potentially overcome this problem, Gates said. A major aim of the research program is to see if it can operate in a steady state at high performance without disruptions and without needing to drive a current into the plasma. The promise for this resides in the fact that its twisted internal coils provide the helical magnetic field. “Because we can now optimize stellarators for confinement, they have the potential of catching up to tokamaks in performance,” Gates said.

    PPPL leads U.S. effort

    PPPL leads the U.S. collaboration with W7-X, which is funded at over $4 million annually from the Department of Energy’s Fusion Energy Sciences office. The Laboratory built some key components of the machine, which was planned for nearly ten years before construction began and 1 billion Euros to build. Collaborators include researchers from LANL and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as well as researchers and students from MIT, the University of Wisconsin, Auburn University, and Xantho Technologies, LLC.

    The first contribution to the experiment made by PPPL physicists and engineers was designing and delivering the five massive 2,400-pound trim coils that fine-tune the shape of the plasma in fusion experiments. Lazerson recently used the field coils to map the magnetic field on the device, proving that the main magnet system is working as intended.

    Pablant said he would look at results from the first plasma measured by a diagnostic device called an X-ray imaging crystal spectrometer that he and PPPL engineer Michael Mardenfeld designed and built. It is one of several diagnostics created by U.S. researchers that will analyze experiments on W7-X.

    PPPL engineers led by Doug Loesser are building a third major contribution by PPPL: two divertor scraper units. The device, designed in collaboration with Oak Ridge, intercepts heat coming from the plasma to protect the W7-X divertor targets from damage.

    Focus on different kind of stellarator

    Neilson said research at PPPL has primarily focused on a different type of stellarator called a quasi-axisymmetric stellarator. PPPL built one such device several years ago but halted construction in 2008 due to funding issues. “Right now we’re just beginning to scope out the program requirements and what we call the mission-need case for a new stellarator initiative,” Neilson said.

    W7-X will continue running until just before Christmas, when it will close for the holidays and reopen at the beginning of January. Its next task will be to extend the duration of the plasma and to do research to prepare for the first plasma from hydrogen fuel. Lazerson will remain at the site until March, 2016, to test the effect of the trim coils on the plasma.

    Pablant, along with a student from Auburn University, will be traveling back and forth to W7-X until March to operate the X-ray crystal spectrometer. It will obtain high-resolution measurements of the temperature and velocity of plasma ions that will be used to study the plasma physics. Gates will continue overseeing PPPL work on W7-X and other stellarator projects.

    Champagne was poured in the W7-X control room on Dec. 10 and more parties were on tap before work continued on Dec. 11. The PPPL physicists savored the moment. “This is awesome,” said Lazerson. “He just summarized what I said!” said Gates. “That was a very accurate summary,” Pablant added.

    PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov (link is external).

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University. PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:20 pm on December 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology, Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, Wendelstein 7-X stellarator   

    From IPP “The first plasma: the Wendelstein 7-X fusion device is now in operation” 

    MPIPP bloc

    Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics

    December 10, 2015
    Isabella Milch

    Following nine years of construction work and more than a million assembly hours, the main assembly of the Wendelstein 7-X was completed in April 2014.

    Wendelstgein 7-X stellarator
    Wendelstein 7-X stellarator

    The operational preparations have been under way ever since. Each technical system was tested in turn, the vacuum in the vessels, the cooling system, the superconducting coils and the magnetic field they produce, the control system, as well as the heating devices and measuring instruments. On 10th December, the day had arrived: the operating team in the control room started up the magnetic field and initiated the computer-operated experiment control system. It fed around one milligram of helium gas into the evacuated plasma vessel, switched on the microwave heating for a short 1,3 megawatt pulse – and the first plasma could be observed by the installed cameras and measuring devices. “We’re starting with a plasma produced from the noble gas helium. We’re not changing over to the actual investigation object, a hydrogen plasma, until next year,” explains project leader Professor Thomas Klinger: “This is because it’s easier to achieve the plasma state with helium. In addition, we can clean the surface of the plasma vessel with helium plasmas.”

    The first plasma in the machine had a duration of one tenth of a second and achieved a temperature of around one million degrees.

    1
    10th December 2015: The first plasma in Wendelstein 7-X. It consisted of helium and reached a temperature of about one million degrees Celsius. (coloured black-and-white photo) Foto: IPP

    “We’re very satisfied”, concludes Dr. Hans-Stephan Bosch, whose division is responsible for the operation of the Wendelstein 7-X, at the end of the first day of experimentation. “Everything went according to plan.” The next task will be to extend the duration of the plasma discharges and to investigate the best method of producing and heating helium plasmas using microwaves. After a break for New Year, confinement studies will continue in January, which will prepare the way for producing the first plasma from hydrogen.

    Background

    The objective of fusion research is to develop a power source that is friendly to the climate and, similarly to the sun, harvests energy from the fusion of atomic nuclei. As the fusion fire only ignites at temperatures of more than 100 million degrees, the fuel – a thin hydrogen plasma – must not come into contact with cold vessel walls. Confined by magnetic fields, it floats virtually free from contact within the interior of a vacuum chamber. For the magnetic cage, two different designs have prevailed – the tokamak and the stellarator. Both types of system are being investigated at the IPP. In Garching, the Tokamak ASDEX Upgrade is in operation and, as of today, the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator is operating in Greifswald.

    3
    Tokamak ASDEX Upgrade

    PPPL NSTXII
    NSTX tokamak at PPPL

    At present, only a tokamak is thought to be capable of producing an energy-supplying plasma and this is the international test reactor ITER, which is currently being constructed in Cadarache in the frame of a worldwide collaboration.

    ITER Tokamak
    ITER tokamak

    Wendelstein 7-X, the world’s largest stellarator-type fusion device, will not produce energy. Nevertheless, it should demonstrate that stellarators are also suitable as a power plant. Wendelstein 7-X is to put the quality of the plasma equilibrium and confinement on a par with that of a tokamak for the very first time. And with discharges lasting 30 minutes, the stellarator should demonstrate its fundamental advantage – the ability to operate continuously. In contrast, tokamaks can only operate in pulses without auxiliary equipment.

    The assembly of Wendelstein 7-X began in April 2005: a ring of 50 superconducting coils, some 3.5 metres high, is the key part of the device. Their special shapes are the result of refined optimisation calculations carried out by the “Stellarator Theory Department”, which spent more than ten years searching for a magnetic cage that is particularly heat insulating. The coils are threaded onto a ring-shaped steel plasma vessel and encased by a steel shell. In the vacuum created inside the shell, the coils are cooled down to superconduction temperature close to absolute zero using liquid helium. Once switched on, they consume hardly any energy. The magnetic cage that they create, keeps the 30 cubic metres of ultra-thin plasma – the object of the investigation – suspended inside the plasma vessel.

    The investment costs for Wendelstein 7-X amount to 370 million euros and are being met by the federal and state governments, and also by the EU. The components were manufactured by companies throughout Europe. Orders in excess of 70 million euros were placed with companies in the region. Numerous research facilities at home and abroad were involved in the construction of the device. Within the framework of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology was responsible for the microwave plasma heating; the Jülich Research Centre built measuring instruments and produced the elaborate connections for the superconducting magnetic coils. Installation was carried out by specialists from the Polish Academy of Science in Krakow. The American fusion research institutes at Princeton [PPPL], Oak Ridge and Los Alamos contributed equipment for the Wendelstein 7-X that included auxiliary coils and measuring instruments.

    See the full article here .

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    MPIPP campus

    The Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics (Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik, IPP) is a physics institute for the investigation of plasma physics, with the aim of working towards fusion power. The institute also works on surface physics, also with focus on problems of fusion power.

    The IPP is an institute of the Max Planck Society, part of the European Atomic Energy Community, and an associated member of the Helmholtz Association.

    The IPP has two sites: Garching near Munich (founded 1960) and Greifswald (founded 1994), both in Germany.

    It owns several large devices, namely

    the experimental tokamak ASDEX Upgrade (in operation since 1991)
    the experimental stellarator Wendelstein 7-AS (in operation until 2002)
    the experimental stellarator Wendelstein 7-X (awaiting licensing)
    a tandem accelerator

    It also cooperates with the ITER and JET projects.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:34 pm on December 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology, , , Wendelstein 7-X   

    From PPPL: “PPPL researcher maps magnetic fields in first physics experiment on W7-X” 


    PPPL

    December 4, 2015
    Jeanne Jackson DeVoe

    PPPL Wendelstein 7-X
    Wendelstein 7-X

    2
    Sam Lazerson in front of a stellarator model at PPPL that was built for the 1958 “Atoms for Peace Conference” in Geneva. (Photo by Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications).

    As excitement builds around the first plasma, scheduled for December, on the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) experiment in Greifswald, Germany, PPPL physicist Sam Lazerson can boast that he has already achieved results.

    Lazerson, who has been working at the site since March, mapped the structure of the magnetic field, proving that the main magnet system is working as intended. This was achieved using the trim coils that PPPL designed and had built in the United States. He presented his research at the APS Division of Plasma Physics Conference in Savannah, Georgia, on Nov. 18.

    PPPL leads U.S. laboratories that are collaborating with the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in experiments on the W7-X, the largest and most advanced stellarator in the world. It will be the first optimzed stellarator fusion facility to confine a hot plasma in a steady state for up to 30 minutes. In doing so, it will demonstrate that an optimized stellarator could be a model for future fusion reactors.

    Stellarators are fusion devices that use twisting, potato chip-shaped magnetic coils to confine the plasma that fuels fusion reactions in a three-dimensional and steady-state magnetic field. Stellarators are not subject to disruption of the current that completes the magnetic confinement as are traditional donut-shaped tokamaks.

    PPPL NSTX
    PPPL/NSTX-U tokamak

    Such disruptions can halt fusion reactions.

    “W7-X is a fantastic experiment,” said PPPL Director Stewart Prager. “It’s going to be critical to the future of stellarator research in the world. We’re anxious to be a part of it since stellarators are a part of the future of fusion. We’re delighted that Sam is spending time there and we’re excited that the first experimental results are from Sam’s work.”

    Hutch Neilson, head of advanced projects at PPPL, is equally enthusiastic. “Once W7-X comes on line it will be the most advanced fusion experiment in the world,” said Neilson, who is technical coordinator for the U.S. partnership with the Max Planck Institute. “It will allow us to study 3-D plasma physics and test a concept that can be steady state and have the potential to make a simpler fusion reactor. It could be a step on a path to a new more attractive fusion reactor concept.”

    In the past, tokamaks were better than stellarators at confining plasma at the high temperature and density needed to create fusion energy. But the W7-X could potentially overcome this problem. “W7-X will meet or exceed the performance of modern tokamaks,” Lazerson predicted. “That’s why W7-X is important — because it’s ground-breaking.”

    PPPL played key role

    PPPL has played a key role in the development of W7-X and leads the U.S. collaboration on the experiment under a 2014 agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics. PPPL physicists and engineers designed and delivered the five 2,400-pound trim coils that fine-tune the shape of the plasma in fusion experiments.

    In addition, PPPL physicists Novimir Pablant and engineer Michael Mardenfeld designed and built an X-ray crystal spectrometer for the experiment that was one of several diagnostics created by U.S. researchers from PPPL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. PPPL engineers led by Doug Loesser are building two divertor scraper units, a device designed in collaboration with Oak Ridge to intercept heat coming from the plasma to protect against damage to the W7-X divertor targets.

    Neilson was at the Max Planck Institute from July of 2014 to April and helped pave the way for American researchers as coordinator of the U.S. collaboration on W7-X. Gates, who is the stellarator physics leader at PPPL, has traveled to Germany several times to manage the U.S. research program. “Dave’s leadership is critical to ensuring that Sam and other PPPL physicists are strongly engaged in important W7-X research tasks,” Neilson said.

    Mapping the magnetic field

    Lazerson arrived last March and has been working with a team that has been designing and analyzing experiments that map the stellarator’s magnetic field. Lazerson used a diagnostic designed by physicist Matthias Otte of the Max Planck Institute. It consists of two fluorescent rods inserted into the W7-X vacuum vessel, one of which emits an electron beam. This beam causes the other fluorescent rod to glow and trace the pattern of electrons moving around the magnetic field. Cameras in W7-X capture the glowing rod as it tracing the field.

    The recorded image allows researchers to determine whether the stellarator’s massive magnets are have the required accuracy and whether the trim coils designed by PPPL are producing the intended results. The coils are designed to control “error fields” that can be used to create and manipulate a chain of magnetic islands that are located at the edge of the plasma and serve to distribute heat evenly among the 10 divertors that exhaust heat from the plasma. The trim coils can shrink or grow the magnetic islands, depending on how strong a magnetic field is applied.

    The photographs allow researchers to calculate the size of these small islands. By varying the trim coil current, researchers can check that the size of the islands is changing as expected, enabling researchers to determine if there are error fields in the main magnet system.

    “Once we make a plasma, we can perform experiments using the trim coils,” Lazerson said. “The measurements we’ve made in the absence of a plasma, with just the magnetic field, give us a basis for what the system looks like without a plasma, and an understanding of what the trim coils do to the basic magnetic structure. That’s interesting in its own right, but it’s also a stepping stone to the plasma experiments.”

    A “great opportunity”

    Lazerson said he has enjoyed working at the Max Planck Institute, which at 500 people is about the same size as PPPL. “It’s a great group of people,” he said. “This is a really unique experience. It’s a great opportunity.”

    The Lazerson family, which includes Lazerson’s wife Meghan and the couple’s five-year-old daughter Samantha, live in Greifswald, where Lazerson can bike to work and take Samantha to the local kindergarten by bicycle. Greifswald is a university town in northeastern Germany that began in the 15th century, when it was part of Sweden. It is not far from a beach on the Baltic Sea and is about two-and-a-half hours from Berlin.

    Lazerson said he has often had visits from Neilson and Gates, as well as DOE officials who have stopped in to see the project’s progress.

    Lazerson is looking forward to doing research after the first plasma. “We haven’t even touched on the interesting science that we’re going to be able to do with this device,” he said. “I think the success of W7-X will perhaps chart a new course on how we do fusion energy or what we want to do as our next experiment.”

    See the full article here .

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    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University. PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:43 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology,   

    From PPPL via Princeton Journal Watch: “Identifying new sources of turbulence in spherical tokamaks (Physics of Plasmas)” 


    PPPL

    December 1, 2015
    John Greenwald

    1
    Computer simulation of turbulence in a model of the NSTX-U, a spherical tokamak fusion facility at the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. Credit: Eliot Feibush

    PPPL NSTX
    NSTX

    For fusion reactions to take place efficiently, the atomic nuclei that fuse together in plasma must be kept sufficiently hot. But turbulence in the plasma that flows in facilities called tokamaks can cause heat to leak from the core of the plasma to its outer edge, causing reactions to fizzle out.

    Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have for the first time modeled previously unsuspected sources of turbulence in spherical tokamaks, an alternative design for producing fusion energy. The findings, published online in October in Physics of Plasmas, could influence the development of future fusion facilities. This work was supported by the DOE Office of Science.

    Spherical tokamaks, like the recently completed National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U) at PPPL, are shaped like cored apples compared with the mushroom-like design of conventional tokamaks that are more widely used. The cored-apple shape provides some distinct characteristics for the behavior of the plasma inside.

    The paper, with PPPL principal research physicist Weixing Wang as lead author, identifies two important new sources of turbulence based on data from experiments on the National Spherical Torus Experiment prior to its upgrade. The discoveries were made by using state-of-the-art large-scale computer simulations. These sources are:

    Instabilities caused by plasma that flows faster in the center of the fusion facility than toward the edge when rotating strongly in L-mode — or low confinement — regimes. These instabilities, called Kelvin-Helmholtz modes after physicists Baron Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, act like wind that stirs up waves as it blows over water and are for the first time found to be relevant for realistic fusion experiments. Such non-uniform plasma flows have been known to play favorable roles in fusion plasmas in conventional and spherical tokamaks. The new results from this study suggest that we may also need to keep these flows within an optimized level.

    Trapped electrons that bounce between two points in a section of the tokamak instead of swirling all the way around the facility. These electrons were shown to cause significant leakage of heat in H-mode — or high-confinement — regimes by driving a specific instability when they collide frequently. This type of instability is believed to play little role in conventional tokamaks but can provide a robust source of plasma turbulence in spherical tokamaks.

    Most interestingly, the model predicts a range of trapped electron collisions in spherical tokamaks that can be turbulence-free, thus improving the plasma confinement. Such favorable plasmas could possibly be achieved by future advanced spherical tokamaks operating at high temperature.

    Findings of the new model can be tested on the NSTX-U and will help guide experiments to identify non-traditional sources of turbulence in the spherical facility. Results of this research can shed light on the physics behind key obstacles to plasma confinement in spherical facilities and on ways to overcome them in future machines.

    Read the abstract:

    Weixing X. Wang, Stephane Ethier, Yang Ren, Stanley Kaye, Jin Chen, Edward Startsev, Zhixin Lu, and Zhengqian Li. Identification of new turbulence contributions to plasma transport and confinement in spherical tokamak regime. Physics of Plasmas, published October 2015. doi:10.1063/1.4933216.

    See the full article here .

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    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University. PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:41 am on November 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology,   

    From SA: “Why Fusion Researchers Are Going Small” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    THIS IS A PREVIEW.

    David Biello

    You can accuse fusion power advocates of being overly optimistic but never of thinking small. Fusion occurs when two elements combine, or “fuse,” together to form a new, third element, converting matter to energy. It is the process that powers the sun, and the fusion world’s marquee projects are accordingly grand.

    2
    This image shows the Sun as viewed by the Soft X-Ray Telescope (SXT) onboard the orbiting Yohkoh satellite.

    JAXA ISAS YOKHOH Soft X-ray telescope
    JAXA ISAS YOKHOH Soft X-ray telescope

    JAXA ISAS YOHKOH satellite
    JAXA ISAS YOHKOH satellite

    The bright, loop-like structures are hot (millions of degrees) plasma confined by magnetic fields rooted in the solar interior. An image of the sun in visible light would show sunspots at the feet of many of these loops. The halo of gas extending well beyond the sun is called the corona. The darker regions at the North and South poles of the Sun are coronal holes, where the magnetic field lines are open to space and allow particles to escape.

    Consider the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which a consortium of seven nations is building in France.

    ITER Tokamak
    ITER tokamak

    This $21-billion tokomak reactor will use superconducting magnets to create plasma hot and dense enough to achieve fusion. When finished, ITER will weigh 23,000 metric tons, three times the weight of the Eiffel Tower. The National Ignition Facility (NIF), its main competitor, is equally complex: it fires 192 lasers at a fuel pellet until it is subjected to temperatures of 50 million degrees Celsius and pressures of 150 billion atmospheres.

    LLNL NIF
    NIF

    Despite all this, a working fusion power plant based on ITER or NIF remains decades away. A new crop of researchers are pursuing a different strategy: going small. This year the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy invested nearly $30 million in nine smaller projects aimed at affordable fusion through a program called Accelerating Low-Cost Plasma Heating and Assembly (ALPHA). One representative project, run by Tustin, Calif.–based company Magneto-Inertial Fusion Technologies, is designed to “pinch” a plasma with an electric current until it compresses itself enough induce fusion.

    See the full article here .

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    Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S., has been bringing its readers unique insights about developments in science and technology for more than 160 years.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:13 pm on November 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology,   

    From MIT: “Alex Tinguely: Working toward a fusion future” 


    MIT News

    1
    Alex Tinguely manipulates plasma in a glow discharge tube to introduce visitors to the concept of magnetic confinement fusion. Photo: Paul Rivenberg

    After starting his physics education with online courses, an MIT graduate student is now practicing cutting-edge research in nuclear fusion at MIT.

    Alex Tinguely wonders where he might be today if he had not taken an online physics class in high school. The second-year Department of Physics graduate student from Fort Madison, Iowa, attended a high school with a population of no more than 100 students, and with no available physics courses.

    In his junior year he decided if he was going to explore the world of physics he would need to do it online, and on his own. With no lab space available, Tinguely adapted the school chapel to his needs.

    “One experiment I did was stack our hymnals to form a ramp that I could roll a ball down. I was trying to calculate the acceleration due to gravity by varying the slope of the ramp. At least one teacher knew that I was in the chapel, but I’m not sure about the others. They probably would not have been too happy.”

    In the process of his chapel experiments, Tinguely found physics so compelling he decided to take an online Advanced Placement Physics course during his senior year.

    Attracted by the breadth of research possible in the field, Alex majored in physics and mathematics at Iowa State University. Between his junior and senior years he had the opportunity, through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship program, to study at a DOE lab. Feeling that the topic of nuclear fusion sounded promising, he ended up at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). He spent the summer studying dusty plasmas with Arturo Dominguez, whose graduate work at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) had led to his position as PPPL’s science education and program leader.

    Today, Tinguely finds himself in a PSFC control room, acquiring data from the same Alcator C-Mod tokamak Dominguez used for his thesis research.

    1
    Schematic of a tokamak

    Working with his advisor, principal research scientist Bob Granetz, he studies how to magnetically confine plasmas in a toroidal vacuum vessel, so that fusion can occur. His focus now is on disruptions, often caused by instabilities in the plasma, which can damage the walls of the fusion vessel.

    “We need to figure out how to prevent disruptions if we want our tokamak to work and survive.”

    Tinguely is particularly interested in runaway electrons, which can be caused by disruptions. These electrons, which have accelerated to nearly the speed of light, can carry a lot of energy: 1,000 times more than the normal thermal energy of electrons in the plasma. If runaway electron beams are created in a fusion device, they can eventually strike a wall and cause serious — potentially catastrophic — damage to the vessel.

    The disruption scenarios Tinguely studies are comparable to what could occur in the ITER Project, a large-scale fusion experiment being built in France to demonstrate the technological and scientific feasibility of magnetic confinement fusion.

    ITER Tokamak
    ITER tokamak

    “If we can predict disruptions on C-Mod, hopefully we can predict them on ITER,” Alex says.

    His research takes Tinguely inside the compact vacuum vessel of the Alcator C-Mod tokamak, an opportunity he describes as “one of the coolest experiences ever.” Inside a machine that can reach temperatures of 100 million degrees, he calibrates spectrometers so that they can accurately measure the amount of light coming from the synchrotron radiation of runaway electrons. For Tinguely, working inside the tokamak provides a unique learning experience, one that places a lot of responsibility on the students, but teaches great skills.

    Tinguely is eager to share his enjoyment of physics and fusion research with others. At the PSFC he is honing the talent for educational outreach that he nurtured as a member of the Iowa State University Physics and Astronomy Club, where he helped put on science demonstrations at local elementary schools and on campus. Giving a tour of the PSFC, he might be found explaining how to play a video game that challenges participants to keep a plasma from touching the walls of the vessel, or inviting a high school student to hold a large magnet up to a glow-discharge tube filled with plasma, to illustrate how plasmas respond to magnetic fields.

    “I think it’s really fun to do and hopefully gets kids interested in science,” Tinguely says. “It was very much by chance that I became interested in physics.”

    Looking back on his decision to take an online physics course, and how it led him on a path to MIT, Tinguely seems committed to sparking that same interest in the minds of the students he meets.

    “My end goal is to hopefully help build a fusion reactor some day,” he says. And it looks like he’s hoping to inspire others to join him.

    See the full article here .

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    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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