Scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have successfully conducted a revolutionary nuclear fusion experiment. Using their experimental reactor, the Wendelstein 7-X (W7X) stellarator, they have managed to sustain a hydrogen plasma – a key step on the path to creating workable nuclear fusion. The German chancellor Angela Merkel, who herself has a doctorate in physics, switched on the device at 2:35 p.m. GMT (9:35 a.m. EST).
As a clean, near-limitless source of energy, it’s no understatement to say that controlled nuclear fusion (replicating the process that powers the Sun) would change the world, and several nations are striving to make breakthroughs in this field. Germany is undoubtedly the frontrunner in one respect: This is the second time that it’s successfully fired up its experimental fusion reactor.
Last December, the team managed to suspend a helium plasma for the first time in history, and they’ve now achieved the same feat with hydrogen. Generating a hydrogen plasma is considerably more difficult than producing a helium one, so by producing and sustaining one in today’s experiment, even for just a few milliseconds, these researchers have achieved something truly remarkable.
|Photo: The first hydrogen plasma in Wendelstein 7-X.|
Photo: (IPP) Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics.
John Jelonnek, a physicist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, led a team that was responsible for installing the powerful heating components of the reactor. “We’re not doing this for us,” he told the Guardian, “but for our children and grandchildren.”
by Robin Andrews
February 3, 2016 |