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  • richardmitnick 2:18 pm on May 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology, , MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE), Zach Hartwig   

    From M.I.T.- “Zach Hartwig: Applying diverse skills in pursuit of a fusion breakthrough” 

    MIT News

    MIT Widget

    MIT News

    May 22, 2017
    Peter Dunn
    Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering

    1
    Assistant Professor Zach Hartwig joined the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering faculty this year after almost a decade of doctoral and postdoc work at MIT. Photo: Lillie Paquette/MIT School of Engineering.

    Newly-appointed Assistant Professor Zach Hartwig’s mission is to use nuclear technology to benefit society and the environment.

    Making nuclear fusion a practical energy source is a complex challenge that will require diverse capabilities — like the scientific, engineering, communication, and leadership skills that Zach Hartwig has applied during almost a decade of doctoral and postdoc work at MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE).

    Hartwig, who was recently named an NSE assistant professor, has helped develop a groundbreaking materials diagnostic system for the Alcator C-Mod fusion reactor and led the establishment of a new ion accelerator lab. He has also advocated for scientific research before a variety of audiences, and, with a team of other postdocs, has proposed a promising new strategy for fusion energy development.

    All these efforts align with NSE’s ongoing mission of using nuclear technology to benefit society and the environment, he says.

    “There’s a rising energy in the department today,” says Hartwig, who also holds a co-appointment at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) and an affiliation with the Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy. “A sense that, yes, we need to do research and train students, but also that it’s our responsibility to get beyond our walls and have a positive impact in the world.”

    Hartwig’s current focus is the compelling prospect of applying new-generation, high-temperature superconducting magnet technology in fusion reactors while developing innovative technology and funding frameworks that can accelerate fusion’s deployment onto the electric grid. The strategy centers on a faster-better-cheaper approach to technology development and an aggressive pursuit of net energy gain from controlled fusion, and it is at the heart of new directions in fusion energy research at NSE and PSFC. It was developed by the PSFC team of Hartwig, Dan Brunner, Bob Mumgaard, and Brandon Sorbom.

    Newly-available superconducting materials like REBCO (a single-crystal material composed of yttrium, barium, copper, oxygen and other elements) allow the creation of unprecedentedly-high-field magnets. They may enable smaller and less-expensive versions of venerable tokamak-type fusion reactors (like the Alcator C-Mod, which was shuttered last year), in part because a doubling of magnetic field strength produces a 16-fold increase in fusion power density. Hartwig says a fast-track high-field magnet development program, followed by the possible building of a compact, net-energy-gain tokamak in the next 5-10 years, would be a watershed in dispelling fusion’s reputation as being always in the future.

    “If and when we do that, fusion will ramp exponentially, just as fission did,” Hartwig says. “But we need to hit it in, say, 2025 or 2030, not 2080, if fusion is going to help mitigate the worst effects of climate change. We believe high-field REBCO magnets enable us to do just that.”

    Private funding, driven by the huge commercial opportunities of a safe, carbon-free, always-on energy source, could complement government support of fusion energy sciences. Hartwig points to comparable efforts in space exploration, cancer and brain research, oceanography, and other fields. He adds that the high-field magnet approach to fusion is a good fit — a transformational breakthrough that’s well-matched to investors seeking high-impact solutions to global climate change.

    “Much smaller reactors are cheaper and require less of an organization — they can be built by a university, and let us move faster and try more things,” he says. “And if it really doesn’t pan out, it’s better to find out quickly.”

    In any event, competencies in superconducting magnets have broad applicability in sectors like energy storage, magnetic resonance imaging, and maglev transportation. Niobium-titanium low-temperature superconducting magnets are being used in the recently-commissioned Ionetix Superconducting Proton Cyclotron, the centerpiece of the ion accelerator lab that Hartwig created with NSE and PSFC graduate students Sorbom, Leigh Ann Kesler, and Steve Jepeal. Hartwig says he formed the seeds of his new lab even as a student and postdoc: “We did have a vision; there was an underutilized space and some pre-existing grants, and we poured in elbow grease.”

    “It’s the first new cyclotron on campus in decades,” Hartwig says. “Accelerators are good scientific tools. They’re usually associated with high-energy physics, but they’re primarily an industrial tool for measuring and modifying materials properties.”

    The new accelerator, which sits alongside three older systems, provides higher-energy particles, allowing investigation of previously inaccessible reactions and phenomena. Top priorities are nuclear security and development of systems that can quickly and safely detect nuclear materials in freight containers, but the lab is also making new connections between NSE faculty, students and staff.

    “It’s centrally located, and brings together people from many different groups in the department,” Hartwig says. “There’s so much expertise, the accelerators have lots of possible applications, and we’re all tinkerers. I predicted four years ago that it would have visitors every day, and I was right — we should sell tickets.”

    That outlook reflects Hartwig’s appreciation of collegial teamwork, and of the research community in and around NSE, which includes facilities like the PSFC, the fission-oriented Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, the Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, and laboratories for materials, corrosion, magnets, and quantum technology.

    “That’s a lot of big facilities, and most don’t exist anywhere else,” he says. “Having all those capabilities at a university is probably unique in the world, and it creates a lot of opportunities, in fusion and other areas, for MIT to do what only MIT can do — put things together and be the fabric where innovation occurs.”

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  • richardmitnick 4:50 pm on May 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: China EAST, Fusion technology, , KIT Wendelstein 7-X, , Tokamak energy a Brisish endeavor,   

    From Universe Today: “How Far Away is Fusion? Unlocking the Power of the Sun’ 

    universe-today

    Universe Today

    27 May , 2017
    Fraser Cain


    I’d like to think we’re smarter than the Sun.

    Let’s compare and contrast. Humans, on the one hand, have made enormous advances in science and technology, built cities, cars, computers, and phones. We have split the atom for war and for energy.

    What has the Sun done? It’s a massive ball of plasma, made up of mostly hydrogen and helium. It just, kind of, sits there. Every now and then it burps up hydrogen gas into a coronal mass ejection. It’s not a stretch to say that the Sun, and all inanimate material in the Universe, isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.

    And yet, the Sun has mastered a form of energy that we just can’t seem to wrap our minds around: fusion. It’s really infuriating, seeing the Sun, just sitting there, effortlessly doing something our finest minds have struggled with for half a century.

    Why can’t we make fusion work? How long until we can finally catch up technologically with a sphere of ionized gas?

    The trick to the Sun’s ability to generate power through nuclear fusion, of course, comes from its enormous mass. The Sun contains 1.989 x 10^30 kilograms of mostly hydrogen and helium, and this mass pushes inward, creating a core heated to 15 million degrees C, with 150 times the density of water.

    It’s at this core that the Sun does its work, mashing atoms of hydrogen into helium. This process of fusion is an exothermic reaction, which means that every time a new atom of helium is created, photons in the form of gamma radiation are also released.

    The only thing the Sun uses this energy for is light pressure, to counteract the gravity pulling everything inward. Its photons slowly make their way up through the Sun and then they’re released into space. So wasteful.

    How can we replicate this on Earth?

    1
    Inside a Tokamak. Image credit: Lawrence Berkeley Labs

    The main technology developed to do this is called a tokamak reactor; it’s a based on a Russian acronym for: “toroidal chamber with magnetic coils”, and the first prototypes were created in the 1960s. There are many different reactors in development, but the method is essentially the same.

    A vacuum chamber is filled with hydrogen fuel. Then an enormous amount of electricity is run through the chamber, heating up the hydrogen into a plasma state. They might also use lasers and other methods to get the plasma up to 150 to 300 million degrees Celsius (10 to 20 times hotter than the Sun’s core).

    Superconducting magnets surround the fusion chamber, containing the plasma and keeping it away from the chamber walls, which would melt otherwise.

    Once the temperatures and pressures are high enough, atoms of hydrogen are crushed together into helium just like in the Sun. This releases photons which heat up the plasma, keeping the reaction going without any addition energy input.

    Excess heat reaches the chamber walls, and can be extracted to do work.

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    The spherical tokamak MAST at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (UK). Photo: CCFE

    The challenge has always been that heating up the chamber and constraining the plasma uses up more energy than gets produced in the reactor. We can make fusion work, we just haven’t been able to extract surplus energy from the system… yet.

    Compared to other forms of energy production, fusion should be clean and safe. The fuel source is water, and the byproduct is helium (which the world is actually starting to run out of). If there’s a problem with the reactor, it would cool down and the fusion reaction would stop.

    The high energy photons released in the fusion reaction will be a problem, however. They’ll stream into the surrounding fusion reactor and make the whole thing radioactive. The fusion chamber will be deadly for about 50 years, but its rapid half-life will make it as radioactive as coal ash after 500 years.

    PPPL NSTX -U at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, Princeton, NJ,USA

    Fusion experiments are measured by the amount of energy they produce compared to the amount of energy you put into them. For example, if a fusion plant required 100MW of electrical energy to produce 10 MW of output, it would have an energy ratio of 0.1. You want at least a ratio of 1. That means energy in equals energy out, and so far, no experiment has ever reached that ratio. But we’re close.

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    The Chinese EAST facility’s tokamak reactor, part of the Institute of Physical Science in Hefei. Credit: ipp.cas.cn

    Wendelstgein 7-X stellarator, built in Greifswald, Germany

    ITER Tokamak ITER Tokamak in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, which is in southern France

    ITER is enormous, measuring 30 meters across and high. And its fusion chamber is so large that it should be able to create a self-sustaining fusion reaction. The energy released by the fusing hydrogen keeps the fuel hot enough to keep reacting. There will still be energy required to run the electric magnets that contain the plasma, but not to keep the plasma hot.

    And if all goes well, ITER will have a ratio of 10. In other words, for every 10 MW of energy pumped in, it’ll generate 100 MW of usable power.

    ITER is still under construction, and as of June 2015, the total construction costs had reached $14 billion. The facility is expected to be complete by 2021, and the first fusion tests will begin in 2025.

    So, if ITER works as planned, we are now about 8 years away from positive energy output from fusion. Of course, ITER will just be an experiment, not an actual powerplant, so if it even works, an actual fusion-based energy grid will be decades after that.

    At this point, I’d say we’re about a decade away from someone demonstrating that a self-sustaining fusion reaction that generates more power than it consumes is feasible. And then probably another 2 decades away from them supplying electricity to the power grid. By that point, our smug Sun will need to find a new job.

    [The old saying, thirty years old, is that fusion is 30 years away. PPPL is down for two years down to error and malfuntion. LLNL/NIF has gieven up is laser trials and is not even mentioned her. Iter is so far behind and so over budget it faces constant fears of financial support disappearing. Tokamak Energy, a British attempt, is having some success. it should have been included in this article.]

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  • richardmitnick 9:27 pm on May 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Fusion technology, , Tokamak Energy's ST40 fusion reactor   

    From Science Alert: “The UK Just Switched on an Ambitious Fusion Reactor – and It Works” 

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    1 MAY 2017
    FIONA MACDONALD

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    Tokamak Energy

    First plasma has been achieved.

    The UK’s newest fusion reactor, ST40, was switched on last week, and has already managed to achieve ‘first plasma’ – successfully generating a scorching blob of electrically-charged gas (or plasma) within its core.

    2
    Tokamak Energy

    The aim is for the tokamak reactor to heat plasma up to 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit) by 2018 – seven times hotter than the centre of the Sun. That’s the ‘fusion’ threshold, at which hydrogen atoms can begin to fuse into helium, unleashing limitless, clean energy in the process.

    “Today is an important day for fusion energy development in the UK, and the world,” said David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy, the company behind ST40.

    “We are unveiling the first world-class controlled fusion device to have been designed, built and operated by a private venture. The ST40 is a machine that will show fusion temperatures – 100 million degrees – are possible in compact, cost-effective reactors. This will allow fusion power to be achieved in years, not decades.”

    Nuclear fusion is the process that fuels our Sun, and if we can figure out a way to achieve the same thing here on Earth, it would allow us to tap into an unlimited supply of clean energy that produces next to no carbon emissions.

    Unlike nuclear fission, which is achieved in today’s nuclear reactors, nuclear fusion involves fusing atoms together, not splitting them apart, and it requires little more than salt and water, and primarily produces helium as a waste product.

    But as promising as nuclear fusion is, it’s something scientists have struggled to achieve.

    The process involves using high-powered magnets to control plasma at ridiculous temperatures for long enough to generate useful amounts of electricity, which, as you can imagine, is far from simple.

    Over the past year there have been some big wins. Scientists from MIT broke the record for plasma pressure back in October, and in December, South Korean researchers became the first to sustain ‘high performance’ plasma of up to 300 million degrees Celsius (540 million degrees Fahrenheit) for 70 seconds.

    3
    MIT Bob Mumgaard/Plasma Science and Fusion Centre

    4
    Michel Maccagnan/Wikimedia Commons

    In Germany, a new type of fusion reactor called the Wendelstein 7-X stellerator has been able to successfully control plasma.

    Wendelstein 7-AS built in built in Greifswald, Germany

    But we’re still a long way off being able to put all those pieces together – finding an affordable way to generate plasma at the temperatures required for fusion to occur, and then being able to harness it for long enough to generate energy.

    ST40 is what’s known as a tokamak reactor, which uses high-powered magnetic coils to control a core of scorching plasma in a toroidal shape.

    The next step is for a full set of those magnetic coils to be installed and tested within ST40, and later this year, Tokamak Energy will use them to aim to generate plasma at temperatures of 15 million degrees Celsius (27 million degrees Fahrenheit).

    In 2018, the team hopes to achieve the fusion threshold of 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit), and the ultimate goal is to provide clean fusion power to the UK grid by 2030.

    Whether or not they’ll be able to pull off the feat remains to be seen.

    But the company is now one step closer, and as they’re not the only ones with a tokamak reactor in development, it will hopefully only speed up the race to get a commercial fusion reactor online.

    Watch this space.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:44 am on April 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology, The future of energy isn’t fossil fuels or renewables it’s nuclear fusion   

    From Ethan Siegel: “The future of energy isn’t fossil fuels or renewables, it’s nuclear fusion” 

    Ethan Siegel
    4.19.17

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    The plasma in the center of this fusion reactor is so hot it doesn’t emit light; it’s only the cooler plasma located at the walls that can be seen. Hints of magnetic interplay between the hot and cold plasmas can be seen. Image credit: National Fusion Research Institute, Korea.

    When we think about a long-term solution to our energy needs, none of today’s options are this good.

    “I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming.” -Stephen Hawking

    Let’s pretend, for a moment, that the climate doesn’t matter. That we’re completely ignoring the connection between carbon dioxide, the Earth’s atmosphere, the greenhouse effect, global temperatures, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise. From a long-term point of view, we’d still need to plan for our energy future. Fossil fuels, which make up by far the majority of world-wide power today, are an abundant but fundamentally limited resource. Renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectric power have different limitations: they’re inconsistent. There is a long-term solution, though, that overcomes all of these problems: nuclear fusion.

    2
    Even the most advanced chemical reactions, like combusting thermite, shown here, generate about a million times less energy per unit mass compared to a nuclear reaction. Image credit: Nikthestunned of Wikipedia.

    It might seem that the fossil fuel problem is obvious: we cannot simply generate more coal, oil, or natural gas when our present supplies run out. We’ve been burning pretty much every drop we can get our hands on for going on three centuries now, and this problem is going to get worse. Even though we have hundreds of years more before we’re all out, the amount isn’t limitless. There are legitimate, non-warming-related environmental concerns, too.

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    Even if we ignored the CO2-global climate change problem, fossil fuels are limited in the amount Earth contains, and also extracting, transporting, refining and burning them causes large amounts of pollution. Image credit: Greg Goebel.

    The burning of fossil fuels generates pollution, since these carbon-based fuel sources contain a lot more than just carbon and hydrogen in their chemical makeup, and burning them (to generate energy) also burns all the impurities, releasing them into the air. In addition, the refining and/or extraction process is dirty, dangerous and can pollute the water table and entire bodies of water, like rivers and lakes.

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    Wind farms, like many other sources of renewable energy, are dependent on the environment in an inconsistent, uncontrollable way. Image credit: Winchell Joshua, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    On the other hand, renewable energy sources are inconsistent, even at their best. Try powering your grid during dry, overcast (or overnight), and drought-riddled times, and you’re doomed to failure. The sheer magnitude of the battery storage capabilities required to power even a single city during insufficient energy-generation conditions is daunting. Simultaneously, the pollution effects associated with creating solar panels, manufacturing wind or hydroelectric turbines, and (especially) with creating the materials needed to store large amounts of energy are tremendous as well. Even what’s touted as “green energy” isn’t devoid of drawbacks.

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    Reactor nuclear experimental RA-6 (Republica Argentina 6), en marcha. The blue glow is known as Cherenkov radiation, from the faster-than-light-in-water particles emitted. Image credit: Centro Atomico Bariloche, via Pieck Darío.

    But there is always the nuclear option. That word itself is enough to elicit strong reactions from many people: nuclear. The idea of nuclear bombs, of radioactive fallout, of meltdowns, and of disasters like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima — not to mention residual fear from the Cold War — make “NIMBY” the default position for a large number of people. And that’s a fear that’s not wholly without foundation, when it comes to nuclear fission. But fission isn’t the only game in town.

    In 1952, the United States detonated Ivy Mike, the first demonstrated nuclear fusion reaction to occur on Earth. Whereas nuclear fission involves taking heavy, unstable (and already radioactive) elements like Thorium, Uranium or Plutonium, initiating a reaction that causes them to split apart into smaller, also radioactive components that release energy, nothing involved in fusion is radioactive at all. The reactants are light, stable elements like isotopes of hydrogen, helium or lithium; the products are also light and stable, like helium, lithium, beryllium or boron.

    6
    The proton-proton chain responsible for producing the vast majority of the Sun’s power is an example of nuclear fusion. Image credit: Borb / Wikimedia Commons.

    So far, fission has taken place in either a runaway or controlled environment, rushing past the breakeven point (where the energy output is greater than the input) with ease, while fusion has never reached the breakeven point in a controlled setting. But four main possibilities have emerged.

    Inertial Confinement Fusion. We take a pellet of hydrogen — the fuel for this fusion reaction — and compress it using many lasers that surround the pellet. The compression causes the hydrogen nuclei to fuse into heavier elements like helium, and releases a burst of energy.
    7
    The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber. NIF recently achieved a 500 terawatt shot — 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time. Image credit: Damien Jemison/LLNL.


    LLNL/NIF


    Magnetic Confinement Fusion. Instead of using mechanical compression, why not let the electromagnetic force do the confining work? Magnetic fields confine a superheated plasma of fusible material, and nuclear fusion reactions occur inside a Tokamak-style reactor.

    Iter experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor that is being built next to the Cadarache facility in Saint Paul les-Durance south of France

    PPPL/NSTX


    Magnetized Target Fusion. In MTF, a superheated plasma is created and confined magnetically, but pistons surrounding it compress the fuel inside, creating a burst of nuclear fusion in the interior.
    8
    http://www.21stcentech.com/general-fusion-takes-step-developing-magnetized-target-fusion-technology/
    Subcritical Fusion. Instead of trying to trigger fusion with heat or inertia, subcritical fusion uses a subcritical fission reaction — with zero chance of a meltdown — to power a fusion reaction.

    The first two have been researched for decades now, and are the closest to the coveted breakeven point. But the latter two are new, with the last one gaining many new investors and start-ups this decade.

    Even if you reject climate science, the problem of powering the world, and doing so in a sustainable, pollution-free way, is one of the most daunting long-term ones facing humanity. Nuclear fusion as a power source has never been given the necessary funding to develop it to fruition, but it’s the one physically possible solution to our energy needs with no obvious downsides. If we can get the idea that “nuclear” means “potential for disaster” out of our heads, people from all across the political spectrum just might be able to come together and solve our energy and environmental needs in one single blow. If you think the government should be investing in science with national and global payoffs, you can’t do better than the ROI that would come from successful fusion research. The physics works out beautifully; we now just need the investment and the engineering breakthroughs.

    See the full article here .

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    “Starts With A Bang! is a blog/video blog about cosmology, physics, astronomy, and anything else I find interesting enough to write about. I am a firm believer that the highest good in life is learning, and the greatest evil is willful ignorance. The goal of everything on this site is to help inform you about our world, how we came to be here, and to understand how it all works. As I write these pages for you, I hope to not only explain to you what we know, think, and believe, but how we know it, and why we draw the conclusions we do. It is my hope that you find this interesting, informative, and accessible,” says Ethan

     
  • richardmitnick 7:19 am on March 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Fusion technology, , ,   

    From NYT: “A Dream of Clean Energy at a Very High Price”, a Now Too Old Subject 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    MARCH 27, 2017
    HENRY FOUNTAIN

    1
    Source: ITER Organization Mika Gröndahl/The New York Times

    SAINT-PAUL-LEZ-DURANCE, France — At a dusty construction site here amid the limestone ridges of Provence, workers scurry around immense slabs of concrete arranged in a ring like a modern-day Stonehenge.

    It looks like the beginnings of a large commercial power plant, but it is not. The project, called ITER, is an enormous, and enormously complex and costly, physics experiment. But if it succeeds, it could determine the power plants of the future and make an invaluable contribution to reducing planet-warming emissions.

    ITER, short for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (and pronounced EAT-er), is being built to test a long-held dream: that nuclear fusion, the atomic reaction that takes place in the sun and in hydrogen bombs, can be controlled to generate power.

    First discussed in 1985 at a United States-Soviet Union summit, the multinational effort, in which the European Union has a 45 percent stake and the United States, Russia, China and three other partners 9 percent each, has long been cited as a crucial step toward a future of near-limitless electric power.

    ITER will produce heat, not electricity. But if it works — if it produces more energy than it consumes, which smaller fusion experiments so far have not been able to do — it could lead to plants that generate electricity without the climate-affecting carbon emissions of fossil-fuel plants or most of the hazards of existing nuclear reactors that split atoms rather than join them.

    Success, however, has always seemed just a few decades away for ITER. The project has progressed in fits and starts for years, plagued by design and management problems that have led to long delays and ballooning costs.

    ITER is moving ahead now, with a director-general, Bernard Bigot, who took over two years ago after an independent analysis that was highly critical of the project. Dr. Bigot, who previously ran France’s atomic energy agency, has earned high marks for resolving management problems and developing a realistic schedule based more on physics and engineering and less on politics.

    “I do believe we are moving at full speed and maybe accelerating,” Dr. Bigot said in an interview.

    The site here is now studded with tower cranes as crews work on the concrete structures that will support and surround the heart of the experiment, a doughnut-shaped chamber called a tokamak. This is where the fusion reactions will take place, within a plasma, a roiling cloud of ionized atoms so hot that it can be contained only by extremely strong magnetic fields.

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    By The New York Times

    Pieces of the tokamak and other components, including giant superconducting electromagnets and a structure that at approximately 100 feet in diameter and 100 feet tall will be the largest stainless-steel vacuum vessel ever made, are being fabricated in the participating countries. Assembly is set to begin next year in a giant hall erected next to the tokamak site.

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    At the ITER construction site, immense slabs of concrete lie in a ring like a modern-day Stonehenge. Credit ITER Organization

    There are major technical hurdles in a project where the manufacturing and construction are on the scale of shipbuilding but the parts need to fit with the precision of a fine watch.

    “It’s a challenge,” said Dr. Bigot, who devotes much of his time to issues related to integrating parts from various countries. “We need to be very sensitive about quality.”

    Even if the project proceeds smoothly, the goal of “first plasma,” using pure hydrogen that does not undergo fusion, would not be reached for another eight years. A so-called burning plasma, which contains a fraction of an ounce of fusible fuel in the form of two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, and can be sustained for perhaps six or seven minutes and release large amounts of energy, would not be achieved until 2035 at the earliest.

    That is a half century after the subject of cooperating on a fusion project came up at a meeting in Geneva between President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. A functional commercial fusion power plant would be even further down the road.

    “Fusion is very hard,” said Riccardo Betti, a researcher at the University of Rochester who has followed the ITER project for years. “Plasma is not your friend. It tries to do everything it can to really displease you.”

    Fusion is also very expensive. ITER estimates the cost of design and construction at about 20 billion euros (currently about $22 billion). But the actual cost of components may be higher in some of the participating countries, like the United States, because of high labor costs. The eventual total United States contribution, which includes an enormous central electromagnet capable, it is said, of lifting an aircraft carrier, has been estimated at about $4 billion.

    Despite the recent progress there are still plenty of doubts about ITER, especially in the United States, which left the project for five years at the turn of the century and where funding through the Energy Department has long been a political football.

    The department confirmed its support for ITER in a report last year and Congress approved $115 million for it. It is unclear, though, how the project will fare in the Trump administration, which has proposed a cut of roughly 20 percent to the department’s Office of Science, which funds basic research including ITER. (The department also funds another long-troubled fusion project, which uses lasers, at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.)

    Dr. Bigot met with the new energy secretary, Rick Perry, last week in Washington, and said he found Mr. Perry “very open to listening” about ITER and its long-term goals. “But he has to make some short-term choices” with his budget, Dr. Bigot said.

    Energy Department press aides did not respond to requests for comment.

    Some in Congress, including Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, while lauding Dr. Bigot’s efforts, argue that the project already consumes too much of the Energy Department’s basic research budget of about $5 billion.

    “I remain concerned that continuing to support the ITER project would come at the expense of other Office of Science priorities that the Department of Energy has said are more important — and that I consider more important,” Mr. Alexander said in a statement.

    While it is not clear what would happen to the project if the United States withdrew, Dr. Bigot argues that it is in every participating country’s interest to see it through. “You have a chance to know if fusion works or not,” he said. “If you miss this chance, maybe it will never come again.”

    But even scientists who support ITER are concerned about the impact it has on other research.

    “People around the country who work on projects that are the scientific basis for fusion are worried that they’re in a no-win situation,” said William Dorland, a physicist at the University of Maryland who is chairman of the plasma science committee of the National Academy of Sciences. “If ITER goes forward, it might eat up all the money. If it doesn’t expand and the U.S. pulls out, it may pull down a lot of good science in the downdraft.”

    In the ITER tokamak, deuterium and tritium nuclei will fuse to form helium, losing a small amount of mass that is converted into a huge amount of energy. Most of the energy will be carried away by neutrons, which will escape the plasma and strike the walls of the tokamak, producing heat.

    In a fusion power plant, that heat would be used to make steam to turn a turbine to generate electricity, much as existing power plants do using other sources of heat, like burning coal. ITER’s heat will be dissipated through cooling towers.

    There is no risk of a runaway reaction and meltdown as with nuclear fission and, while radioactive waste is produced, it is not nearly as long-lived as the spent fuel rods and irradiated components of a fission reactor.

    To fuse, atomic nuclei must move very fast — they must be extremely hot — to overcome natural repulsive forces and collide. In the sun, the extreme gravitational field does much of the work. Nuclei need to be at a temperature of about 15 million degrees Celsius.

    In a tokamak, without such a strong gravitational pull, the atoms need to be about 10 times hotter. So enormous amounts of energy are required to heat the plasma, using pulsating magnetic fields and other sources like microwaves. Just a few feet away, on the other hand, the windings of the superconducting electromagnets need to be cooled to a few degrees above absolute zero. Needless to say, the material and technical challenges are extreme.

    Although all fusion reactors to date have produced less energy than they use, physicists are expecting that ITER will benefit from its larger size, and will produce about 10 times more power than it consumes. But they will face many challenges, chief among them developing the ability to prevent instabilities in the edges of the plasma that can damage the experiment.

    Even in its early stages of construction, the project seems overwhelmingly complex. Embedded in the concrete surfaces are thousands of steel plates. They seem to be scattered at random throughout the structure, but actually are precisely located. ITER is being built to French nuclear plant standards, which prohibit drilling into concrete. So the plates — eventually about 80,000 of them — are where other components of the structure will be attached as construction progresses.

    A mistake or two now could wreak havoc a few years down the road, but Dr. Bigot said that in this and other work on ITER, the key to avoiding errors was taking time.

    “People consider that it’s long,” he said, referring to critics of the project timetable. “But if you want full control of quality, you need time.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:40 pm on December 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology, ,   

    From Science Alert: “Another nuclear fusion record just got broken in South Korea” 

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    16 DEC 2016
    DAVID NIELD

    Scientists working to make nuclear fusion a viable reality have smashed another record, after the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) reactor in South Korea maintained ‘high performance’ plasma in a stable state for 70 seconds this week– the longest ever recorded for this type of reaction.

    1
    http://www.nfri.re.kr/kor/post/photo?clsf=photo02

    Scientists working to make nuclear fusion a viable reality have smashed another record, after the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) reactor in South Korea maintained ‘high performance’ plasma in a stable state for 70 seconds this week– the longest ever recorded for this type of reaction.

    Containing this ultra-hot type of matter is key to unlocking nuclear fusion, so it’s a big step forward in our attempts to make this clean, safe, and virtually limitless source of energy something we can rely on.

    Unlike nuclear fission, which our existing nuclear power plants achieve by splitting atoms, nuclear fusion involves fusing atoms together at incredibly high temperatures – the same reaction that powers our Sun.

    If we can manage to control the reaction safely and sustainably it would be huge, because nuclear fusion can generate power for thousands of years using little more than salt water, and without putting out nuclear waste. And the Korean reactor just took us a step closer to that.

    The KSTAR reactor is housed at the National Fusion Research Institute (NFRI) and is a tokamak-type reactor, where plasma blobs reaching temperatures of up to 300 million degrees Celsius (about 540 million degrees Fahrenheit) are held in place by super-powerful magnetic fields.

    If the blobs can be contained for long enough, hydrogen atoms can fuse together to create heavier helium atoms, releasing energy – a similar process is happening on the Sun, which is why reactors are sometimes described as trying to put “a star in a jar”.

    And while the reactors of today take up much more energy than they produce, each time a record like this is broken, scientists get closer to their ultimate goal.

    “This is a huge step forward for [the] realisation of the fusion reactor,” the NFRI said in a statement, World Nuclear News reports.

    There are plenty of variables scientists can alter to tweak nuclear fusion reactions and different ways they can be measured: from pressure to temperature to time.

    Usually, there’s a trade-off between these three variables, and indeed other reactors have managed to sustain plasma for longer periods of time – but with the KSTAR we’re talking about a “high performance” plasma, which is better suited for nuclear fusion.

    At the same time, the researchers at the NFRI have also developed a new plasma “operation mode” that they hope will enable reactions to handle greater pressures at lower temperatures in the future.

    And getting the whole process more efficient is important if we’re to get nuclear fusion working at the right scale.

    If scientists can crack the “star in a jar” problem, we’d have a nuclear energy source that’s far safer than the nuclear fission plants we rely on now, because no radioactive waste is produced and there’s no chance of a plant meltdown.

    We should note that the results haven’t been published in a journal or independently verified yet, so we’ll have to wait for confirmation that 70 seconds really is the new benchmark to hit for this high-performance plasma.

    But as the KSTAR reactor continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible, it should help bring scientists closer and closer to figuring out how to harness the potential of nuclear fusion.

    As NFRI president Keeman Kim puts it: “We will exert efforts for KSTAR to continuously produce world-class results, and to promote international joint research among nuclear fusion researchers.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:09 am on December 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Fusion technology, , ,   

    From PPPL: “PPPL physicists win funding to lead a DOE exascale computing project” 


    PPPL

    October 27, 2016 [Just now out on social media.]
    Raphael Rosen

    1
    PPPL physicist Amitava Bhattacharjee. (Photo by Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications)

    A proposal from scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has been chosen as part of a national initiative to develop the next generation of supercomputers. Known as the Exascale Computing Project (ECP), the initiative will include a focus on exascale-related software, applications, and workforce training.

    Once developed, exascale computers will perform a billion billion operations per second, a rate 50 to 100 times faster than the most powerful U.S. computers now in use. The fastest computers today operate at the petascale and can perform a million billion operations per second. Exascale machines in the United States are expected to be ready in 2023.

    The PPPL-led multi-institutional project, titled High-Fidelity Whole Device Modeling of Magnetically Confined Fusion Plasmas, was selected during the ECP’s first round of application development funding, which distributed $39.8 million. The overall project will receive $2.5 million a year for four years to be distributed among all the partner institutions, including Argonne, Lawrence Livermore, and Oak Ridge national laboratories, together with Rutgers University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Colorado, Boulder. PPPL itself will receive $800,000 per year; the project it leads was one of 15 selected for full funding, and the only one dedicated to fusion energy. Seven additional projects received seed funding.

    The application efforts will help guide DOE’s development of a U.S. exascale ecosystem as part of President Obama’s National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI). DOE, the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation have been designated as NSCI lead agencies, and ECP is the primary DOE contribution to the initiative.

    The ECP’s multi-year mission is to maximize the benefits of high performance computing (HPC) for U.S. economic competitiveness, national security and scientific discovery. In addition to applications, the DOE project addresses hardware, software, platforms and workforce development needs critical to the effective development and deployment of future exascale systems. The ECP is supported jointly by DOE’s Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration within DOE.

    PPPL has been involved with high-performance computing for years. PPPL scientists created the XGC code, which models the behavior of plasma in the boundary region where the plasma’s ions and electrons interact with each other and with neutral particles produced by the tokamak’s inner wall. The high-performance code is maintained and updated by PPPL scientist C.S. Chang and his team.

    3
    PPPL scientist C.S. Chang

    XGC runs on Titan, the fastest computer in the United States, at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    ORNL Cray Titan Supercomputer
    ORNL Cray Titan Supercomputer

    The calculations needed to model the behavior of the plasma edge are so complex that the code uses 90 percent of the computer’s processing capabilities. Titan performs at the petascale, completing a million billion calculations each second, and the DOE was primarily interested in proposals by institutions that possess petascale-ready codes that can be upgraded for exascale computers.

    The PPPL proposal lays out a four-year plan to combine XGC with GENE, a computer code that simulates the behavior of the plasma core. GENE is maintained by Frank Jenko, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Combining the codes would give physicists a far better sense of how the core plasma interacts with the edge plasma at a fundamental kinetic level, giving a comprehensive view of the entire plasma volume.

    Leading the overall PPPL proposal is Amitava Bhattacharjee, head of the Theory Department at PPPL. Co-principal investigators are PPPL’s Chang and Andrew Siegel, a computational scientist at the University of Chicago.

    The multi-institutional effort will develop a full-scale computer simulation of fusion plasma. Unlike current simulations, which model only part of the hot, charged gas, the proposed simulations will display the physics of an entire plasma all at once. The completed model will integrate the XGC and GENE codes and will be designed to run on exascale computers.

    The modeling will enable physicists to understand plasmas more fully, allowing them to predict its behavior within doughnut-shaped fusion facilities known as tokamaks. The exascale computing fusion proposal focuses primarily on ITER, the international tokamak being built in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power.

    Iter experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor that is being built next to the Cadarache facility in Saint Paul les-Durance south of France
    Iter experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor that is being built next to the Cadarache facility in Saint Paul les-Durance south of France

    But the proposal will be developed with other applications in mind, including stellarators, another variety of fusion facility.

    Wendelstgein 7-X stellarator
    Wendelstgein 7-X stellarator,built in Greifswald, Germany

    Better predictions can lead to better engineered facilities and more efficient fusion reactors. Currently, support for this work comes from the DOE’s Advanced Science Computing Research program.

    “This will be a team effort involving multiple institutions,” said Bhattacharjee. He noted that PPPL will be involved in every aspect of the project, including working with applied mathematicians and computer scientists on the team to develop the simulation framework that will couple GENE with XGC on exascale computers.

    “You need a very-large-scale computer to calculate the multiscale interactions in fusion plasmas,” said Chang. “Whole-device modeling is about simulating the whole thing: all the systems together.”

    Because plasma behavior is immensely complicated, developing an exascale computer is crucial for future research. “Taking into account all the physics in a fusion plasma requires enormous computational resources,” said Bhattacharjee. “With the computer codes we have now, we are already pushing on the edge of the petascale. The exascale is very much needed in order for us to have greater realism and truly predictive capability.”

    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 7:14 am on December 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology, , ,   

    From PPPL: “PPPL and Max Planck physicists confirm the precision of magnetic fields in the most advanced stellarator in the world” 


    PPPL

    December 2, 2016
    John Greenwald

    Physicist Sam Lazerson of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has teamed with German scientists to confirm that the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) fusion energy device called a stellarator in Greifswald, Germany, produces high-quality magnetic fields that are consistent with their complex design.

    PPPL Wendelstein 7-X, built in Greifswald, Germany
    Wendelstein 7-X, built in Greifswald, Germany

    The findings, published in the November 30 issue of Nature Communications, revealed an error field — or deviation from the designed configuration — of less than one part in 100,000. Such results could become a key step toward verifying the feasibility of stellarators as models for future fusion reactors.

    W7-X, for which PPPL is the leading U.S. collaborator, is the largest and most sophisticated stellarator in the world. Built by the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Greifswald, it was completed in 2015 as the vanguard of the stellarator design. Other collaborators on the U.S. team include DOE’s Oak Ridge and Los Alamos National Laboratories, along with Auburn University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Xanthos Technologies.

    Twisty magnetic fields

    Stellarators confine the hot, charged gas, otherwise known as plasma, that fuels fusion reactions in twisty — or 3D — magnetic fields, compared with the symmetrical — or 2D –fields that the more widely used tokamaks create.

    PPPL NSTXII
    PPPL NSTX

    The twisty configuration enables stellarators to control the plasma with no need for the current that tokamaks must induce in the gas to complete the magnetic field. Stellarator plasmas thus run little risk of disrupting, as can happen in tokamaks, causing the internal current to abruptly halt and fusion reactions to shut down.

    PPPL has played key roles in the W7-X project. The Laboratory designed and delivered five barn door-sized trim coils that fine-tune the stellarator’s magnetic fields and made their measurement possible. “We’ve confirmed that the magnetic cage that we’ve built works as designed,” said Lazerson, who led roughly half the experiments that validated the configuration of the field. “This reflects U.S. contributions to W7-X,” he added, “and highlights PPPL’s ability to conduct international collaborations.” Support for this work comes from Euratom and the DOE Office of Science.

    To measure the magnetic field, the scientists launched an electron beam along the field lines. They next obtained a cross-section of the entire magnetic surface by using a fluorescent rod to intersect and sweep through the lines, thereby inducing fluorescent light in the shape of the surface.

    Remarkable fidelity

    Results showed a remarkable fidelity to the design of the highly complex magnetic field. “To our knowledge,” the authors write of the discrepancy of less than one part in 100,000, “this is an unprecedented accuracy, both in terms of the as-built engineering of a fusion device, as well as in the measurement of magnetic topology.”

    The W7-X is the most recent version of the stellarator concept, which Lyman Spitzer, a Princeton University astrophysicist and founder of PPPL, originated during the 1950s. Stellarators mostly gave way to tokamaks a decade later, since the doughnut-shaped facilities are simpler to design and build and generally confine plasma better. But recent advances in plasma theory and computational power have led to renewed interest in stellarators.

    Such advances caused the authors to wonder if devices like the W7-X can provide an answer to the question of whether stellarators are the right concept for fusion energy. Years of plasma physics research will be needed to find out, they conclude, and “that task has just started.”

    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 10:42 am on November 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fusion technology, , ,   

    From The Conversation: “Fusion energy: A time of transition and potential” 

    Conversation
    The Conversation

    November 29, 2016
    Stewart Prager
    Professor of Astrophysical Science, former director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton University

    Michael C. Zarnstorff
    Deputy Director for Research, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton University

    1
    fusion energy. murrayashmole

    For centuries, humans have dreamed of harnessing the power of the sun to energize our lives here on Earth. But we want to go beyond collecting solar energy, and one day generate our own from a mini-sun. If we’re able to solve an extremely complex set of scientific and engineering problems, fusion energy promises a green, safe, unlimited source of energy. From just one kilogram of deuterium extracted from water per day could come enough electricity to power hundreds of thousands of homes.

    Since the 1950s, scientific and engineering research has generated enormous progress toward forcing hydrogen atoms to fuse together in a self-sustaining reaction – as well as a small but demonstrable amount of fusion energy. Skeptics and proponents alike note the two most important remaining challenges: maintaining the reactions over long periods of time and devising a material structure to harness the fusion power for electricity.

    As fusion researchers at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, we know that realistically, the first commercial fusion power plant is still at least 25 years away.

    PPPLII

    But the potential for its outsize benefits to arrive in the second half of this century means we must keep working. Major demonstrations of fusion’s feasibility can be accomplished earlier – and must, so that fusion power can be incorporated into planning for our energy future.

    Unlike other forms of electrical generation, such as solar, natural gas and nuclear fission, fusion cannot be developed in miniature and then be simply scaled up. The experimental steps are large and take time to build. But the problem of abundant, clean energy will be a major calling for humankind for the next century and beyond. It would be foolhardy not to exploit fully this most promising of energy sources.

    Why fusion power?

    2
    Adding heat to two isotopes of water can result in fusion. American Security Project, CC BY-ND

    In fusion, two nuclei of the hydrogen atom (deuterium and tritium isotopes) fuse together. This is relatively difficult to do: Both nuclei are positively charged, and therefore repel each other. Only if they are moving extremely fast when they collide will they smash together, fuse and thereby release the energy we’re after.

    This happens naturally in the sun. Here on Earth, we use powerful magnets to contain an extremely hot gas of electrically charged deuterium and tritium nuclei and electrons. This hot, charged gas is called a plasma.

    The plasma is so hot – more than 100 million degrees Celsius – that the positively charged nuclei move fast enough to overcome their electrical repulsion and fuse. When the nuclei fuse, they form two energetic particles – an alpha particle (the nucleus of the helium atom) and a neutron.

    Heating the plasma to such a high temperature takes a large amount of energy – which must be put into the reactor before fusion can begin. But once it gets going, fusion has the potential to generate enough energy to maintain its own heat, allowing us to draw off excess heat to turn into usable electricity.

    Fuel for fusion power is abundant in nature. Deuterium is plentiful in water, and the reactor itself can make tritium from lithium. And it is available to all nations, mostly independent of local natural resources.

    Fusion power is clean. It emits no greenhouse gases, and produces only helium and a neutron.

    It is safe. There is no possibility for a runaway reaction, like a nuclear-fission “meltdown.” Rather, if there is any malfunction, the plasma cools, and the fusion reactions cease.

    All these attributes have motivated research for decades, and have become even more attractive over time. But the positives are matched by the significant scientific challenge of fusion.

    Progress to date

    The progress in fusion can be measured in two ways. The first is the tremendous advance in basic understanding of high-temperature plasmas. Scientists had to develop a new field of physics – plasma physics – to conceive of methods to confine the plasma in strong magnetic fields, and then evolve the abilities to heat, stabilize, control turbulence in and measure the properties of the superhot plasma.

    Related technology has also progressed enormously. We have pushed the frontiers in magnets, and electromagnetic wave sources and particle beams to contain and heat the plasma. We have also developed techniques so that materials can withstand the intense heat of the plasma in current experiments.

    It is easy to convey the practical metrics that track fusion’s march to commercialization. Chief among them is the fusion power that has been generated in the laboratory: Fusion power generation escalated from milliwatts for microseconds in the 1970s to 10 megawatts of fusion power (at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory) and 16 megawatts for one second (at the Joint European Torus in England) in the 1990s.

    PPPL NSTX
    PPPL NSTX

    A new chapter in research

    4
    Under construction: the ITER research tokamak in France. ITER

    ITER Tokamak
    ITER Tokamak

    Now the international scientific community is working in unity to construct a massive fusion research facility in France. Called ITER (Latin for “the way”), this plant will generate about 500 megawatts of thermal fusion power for about eight minutes at a time. If this power were converted to electricity, it could power about 150,000 homes. As an experiment, it will allow us to test key science and engineering issues in preparation for fusion power plants that will function continuously.

    ITER employs the design known as the “tokamak,” originally a Russian acronym. It involves a doughnut-shaped plasma, confined in a very strong magnetic field, which is partly created by electrical current that flows in the plasma itself.

    Though it is designed as a research project, and not intended to be a net producer of electric energy, ITER will produce 10 times more fusion energy than the 50 megawatts needed to heat the plasma. This is a huge scientific step, creating the first “burning plasma,” in which most of the energy used to heat the plasma comes from the fusion reaction itself.

    ITER is supported by governments representing half the world’s population: China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the U.S. It is a strong international statement about the need for, and promise of, fusion energy.

    The road forward

    From here, the remaining path toward fusion power has two components. First, we must continue research on the tokamak. This means advancing physics and engineering so that we can sustain the plasma in a steady state for months at a time. We will need to develop materials that can withstand an amount of heat equal to one-fifth the heat flux on the surface of the sun for long periods. And we must develop materials that will blanket the reactor core to absorb the neutrons and breed tritium.

    The second component on the path to fusion is to develop ideas that enhance fusion’s attractiveness. Four such ideas are:

    5
    The W-7X stellarator configuration. Max-Planck Institute of Plasmaphysics, CC BY

    Wendelstgein 7-X stellarator
    Wendelstgein 7-X stellarator

    1) Using computers, optimize fusion reactor designs within the constraints of physics and engineering. Beyond what humans can calculate, these optimized designs produce twisted doughnut shapes that are highly stable and can operate automatically for months on end. They are called “stellarators” in the fusion business.

    2) Developing new high-temperature superconducting magnets that can be stronger and smaller than today’s best. That will allow us to build smaller, and likely cheaper, fusion reactors.

    3) Using liquid metal, rather than a solid, as the material surrounding the plasma. Liquid metals do not break, offering a possible solution to the immense challenge how a surrounding material might behave when it contacts the plasma.

    4) Building systems that contain doughnut-shaped plasmas with no hole in the center, forming a plasma shaped almost like a sphere. Some of these approaches could also function with a weaker magnetic field. These “compact tori” and “low-field” approaches also offer the possibility of reduced size and cost.

    Government-sponsored research programs around the world are at work on the elements of both components – and will result in findings that benefit all approaches to fusion energy (as well as our understanding of plasmas in the cosmos and industry). In the past 10 to 15 years, privately funded companies have also joined the effort, particularly in search of compact tori and low-field breakthroughs. Progress is coming and it will bring abundant, clean, safe energy with it.

    See the full article here .

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    The Conversation US launched as a pilot project in October 2014. It is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public.
    Our team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.
    Access to independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy. Our aim is to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues. And hopefully allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversation.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:57 pm on November 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: China Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak, Chinese Researchers Contain Energy of an 'Artificial Sun', Fusion technology,   

    From INVERSE: “Chinese Researchers Contain Energy of an ‘Artificial Sun’ “ 

    INVERSE

    INVERSE

    November 10, 2016
    Tonya Riley

    1

    In February, Chinese researchers met a milestone by creating a nuclear reactor plasma that reached a temperature of 50 million Kelvins (50 million degrees Celsius), which was three times the heat produced by the sun’s core. Now, they’re reporting that they’ve managed to actually contain the energy the reactor produces for an entire minute, bringing them closer to a fully functional “artificial sun” and future of sustainable thermonuclear energy.

    2

    The experiment was conducted using the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak
    , an experimental thermonuclear reactor at the Institute of Plasma Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The reactor, which was completed in 2006, replicates the energy of the sun through creating a plasma, a hot ionized gas where atoms fuse together to create large amounts of energy. This is different from nuclear energy created by fission, which a reaction causes atoms to divide rather than merge.

    In September, China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) won a bid to take over 9 percent of ITER’s nuclear power research. Details of the agreement, including a budget and a supplement agreement for the design of a steam-condensing tank, were finalized in November.

    ITER, which comprises China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United States as members, was launched as an international joint experiment in fusion in 1985. According to its website, the coalition aims to “prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy based on the same principle that powers the sun.” Ultimately, ITER wants to create a reactor that can produce 500 megawatts of fusion output for 400 seconds. While Chinese researchers did not reveal the exact length of the most recent test, they say it was longer than 102 seconds, the record set in February.

    4
    ITER tokamak

    The United States initially committed to building roughly 9 percent of the ITER project and, as of 2016, has spent $3.9 billion on it on research for tests that won’t occur until 2020 at the earliest. In 2015, researchers at MIT announced a design for a new nuclear fusion reactor that is able to produce a magnetic field strong enough to contain large amounts of plasma in a relatively tiny fusion reactor.

    Private companies have also become major players in the fusion energy game. California-based companies General Fusion and Tri Alpha Energy have attracted nearly half a billion each in venture funding. With China’s latest advancement, however, ITER could still be on track to reach its 2035 deadline.

    See the full article here .

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