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Germany just switched on a revolutionary nuclear fusion machine

Germany just switched on a revolutionary nuclear fusion machine

You probably didn’t notice, but a few hours ago, the world took a huge step towards the goal of achieving clean, limitless energy through nuclear fusion. 

Physicists in Germany announced that they’ve just fired up one of the world’s largest nuclear fusion machines for the first time – and it was successfully able to contain super-hot blobs of helium gas, otherwise known as plasma.

The 16-metre-wide machine is the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) and it’s a type of nuclear fusion device called a stellarator. Scientists have been talking about the enormous potential of stellarators for decades, but this is the first time a team has shown that it can produce and control plasma just as well as other fusion reactor designs. 

On 10 December, the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics tweeted out this incredible image of its new machine’s first plasma:

https://twitter.com/PlasmaphysikIPP/status/674937504009711616/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Nuclear fusion occurs when atoms fuse together at incredibly high temperatures and generate energy, and the reason scientists are so excited about it is because it has the potential to produce an almost-unlimited supply of energy from little more than salt water. This is the same process that’s fuelled our Sun for the past 4.5 billion years, and is predicted to continue doing so for another 4 billion years.

Unlike nuclear fission, which powers today’s nuclear power plants, nuclear fusion also doesn’t produce any radioactive waste, and is a whole lot safer.

But it’s also been incredibly tricky for scientists to achieve, because it requires them to construct a device that can produce and control a 100-million-degree-Celsius blob of plasma.

The key to controlling plasma is using superconducting magnets, and scientists have already built several working doughnut-shaped fusion reactors known as tokamaks.

But there’s a big problem with tokamak reactors – they can only maintain plasma for a maximum of 6 minutes and 30 seconds at a time, which isn’t long enough to harvest significant energy. In other words, we’ve already been able to achieve nuclear fusion, but it consumed way more energy than it generated.

And this is why the launch of the stellarator is so exciting, because it’s predicted that the device will be able to control plasma for an unheard-of 30 minutes at a time.

In its first run, the machine was filled with helium – an unreactive gas – heated with a laser to around 1 million degrees Celsius. This plasma was maintained for around one-tenth of a second, which may not sound like much, but was enough to show the machine works.

“We’re very satisfied,” said Hans-Stephan Bosch, who led the team. “Everything went according to plan.”

The next step will be to increase the duration of helium plasma discharges, with the ultimate goal of building them up to 30 minutes in length. In January, the scientists will start trying to produce plasma from hydrogen, which is what would be used in a functioning nuclear fusion machine.

To be clear, the point of W7-X has never been to produce energy. This device is simply a proof-of-concept to show that the stellarator concept actually works. If all goes to plan, the things we learn from W7-X will help us build the next-generation of stellarators, which could quite literally change the world, and end our reliance on fossil fuels forever. Or as this commenter put it so perfectly on YouTube: “Help us Wendlestein 7-X, you’re our only hope.”

Skip forward to around the 23.30 mark of this live stream to see the scientists get super pumped when the machine produces plasma for the first time. What a time to be alive.

Source www.sciencealert.com

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19 Comments on "Germany just switched on a revolutionary nuclear fusion machine"

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Great

Guest

1.000.000.000 €. Greetings from Germany it works.

Rick Carufel
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Is this another technology that is too dangerous to use? What happens when there is component failure and 100 million degrees meets near absolute zero superconductors? And what is happening to that space inside the ring? There has to be some pretty spectacular electromagnetics going on there. Never a word on that.
What could possibly go wrong?

Guest

China duplicated the result as well, confirming it is true.

Guest
thats nice, ive been reading alot about this machine! so they finaly fired it up….nice! but “Help us Wendlestein 7-X, you’re our only hope” in the past decades there been many many different forms of free energy devices and they got ALL seized by the governments. free energy for the world means that EVERYTHING that runs on oil will be obsolete at once. petro giants are too powerful. they are afraid of it and try to stop it somehow…..sad story. actualy nikola tesla was the first who came up with free energy, anti graviti and even wireless energy transmission. but… Read more »
Guest

I love German technology they are amazing

Guest
Guest

At Jülich there is an experimental Reactor which had an accident https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AVR_reactor not too far from here

Guest

India have our mercury laden ctr screens and pc junk so it can be smelted down in a frying pan by some kid that should be in school but never will be because they won’t live long enogh.

Guest

So much Plastic particles swam into the Ocean, but it´d go offtopic going further

Guest

They are the sweatshop and gadget maker so it’s hardly surprising they’re so polluted. We even ship our empty plastic bottles back to them so they can burn them in electric producing plants.

Guest

RWE a big Power Company still insists on needing Coal and polluting our Atmosphere .. they transfer whole villages away .. only cause of coal ressources

Guest

As if it even would solve their issues with smog at shanghai.. the chinese are polluting themselves and the planet. Due to absorbing effects of smog particles floating around the sunrays won´t give us all the energy we need.. for driving around in boats

Guest

The Chinese are throwing them up, at the moment. Fast and cheap,

Guest

come Carl get your energy from greifswald it´s a lot safer than most french or belgian reactors.. lol i am no expert for nuclear energy, am more into the dangers of radiation

Guest

Frank Schuster I doubt it, it’s been in the pipeline a while. This is only a test run before it goes mainstream.

Guest

I think the fusion reactor in Greifswald could be a step ahead technology where we can assume it also could be brought by extraterestrials ? they won´t say if it were so..

Guest

At least we are not in a typical Area of Earthquakes as what applies for the pacific fire ring, which has alot more danger to it.

Guest

Nothing compared to Fukushima, I bet?

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