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posted by cmn32480 on Friday December 11 2015, @03:25PM   Printer-friendly
from the we'll-have-fusion-in-10-years-maybe dept.

The Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) is reporting a successful startup of the experimental Wendelstein 7-X fusion device.

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 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.


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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by frojack on Friday December 11 2015, @09:04PM

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday December 11 2015, @09:04PM (#275150) Journal

    You do know that this version of the device is never intended to produce power, or even break even, right?
    This is a research project for plasma containment only. So it doesn't matter how much power it took, because
    there was never an expectation of return.
    TFA:

    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.

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  • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Friday December 11 2015, @09:17PM

    by HiThere (866) on Friday December 11 2015, @09:17PM (#275154) Journal

    While there never was an expectation of positive return, it DOES matter how much it takes to run it.

    OTOH, that 1.x Megawats was over a really short period of time. It was probably supplied by a bank of capacitors. So I doubt that it involved much power.

    Still, he's studying design of containment, so his goal is going to be to cheaply contain plasmas..and part of cheap containment is cheap initialization. Not a big concern unles he's planning for some kind of pulsed power system, and that's more of a laser fusion kind of concept.

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