Science

Fusion reactor “Wendelstein 7-X” begin plasma production

It has been successful: scientists have created in the fusion reactor Wendelstein 7-X in the first short plasma in Greifswald. They have fight for a results for 20 years to this day . What they are now is even more spectacular.High Noon in Greifswald: yesterday lunch at exactly 12:00 launched project manager Thomas Klinger the countdown. Just like at the start of a rocket launched of by NASA staff and invited researchers celebrities out of ten were down with. Then, the microwave oven fired energy in the large tire-shaped vacuum vessel. A ghostly flicker scurried seconds later on one of the monitors for a short time and it broke out in cheers.

plasma production
A colored recycled computer image shows the first plasma from the nuclear fusion research facility Wendelstein 7-X. For this were introduced 10 mg helium in the vacuum chamber of 725 ton heavy tanks and heated to 1 million C °.

What is behind this flicker? It is the first plasma, which has ignited in the nuclear fusion research facility Wendelstein 7-X of the Max Planck Institute for plasma physics (IPP) in Greifswald. This is a 1 million C ° hot gas from ions and electrons. After 20 years of grueling construction work, this short plasma flicker is a breakthrough.

Target has 100 million C ° hot hydrogen on plasma production.

Wendelstein 7-X is an oddly shaped giant tyre metal that reminds a bit of a twisted fire hose. These giant tyres – riddled with aggregates, hoses and tubes – is mounted on a high scaffolding and forms the world’s largest experiment of its kind with its outer diameter of 16 m. This type of nuclear fusion plant is called the stellarator. “Since more than one million Assembly hours are entered”, explained Klinger, “considerably more than when a container freighter.” This steel colossus of 725 t have taxes in addition to now over 1 billion euros.

Plasma Production - Reactor

A technician works in the toroidal plasma vessel of the research reactor Wendelstein 7-X.

The aim is to produce hot plasma of hydrogen ° a around 100 million C. This is more difficult than yesterday’s test, in which 10 mg helium were used. “A plasma is easier to achieve than with hydrogen with helium,” Klinger said. 70 solenoid coils must ensure that the plasma with the metal of the vacuum ring in contact. Because the temperatures of up to 100 million C ° would withstand any material of the Earth.

The dream of a fusion power plant as power supply begin.

It is cumbersome and costly to recreate the processes on the sun down here on Earth. But the idea of a fusion power plant, which emits no carbon dioxide, would be so carbon-neutral is too attractive. “It takes only a small amount of fuel, and is abundant”, Klinger stressed. The necessary deuterium can be filtered out of water, the second fuel tritium can be obtained by means of lithium. The water from a half bath and the lithium out of an old laptop battery would suffice according to the calculations to supply 30 people a year with power.

Plasma Production
Plasma Production News: The Scientific Director of the research facility Wendelstein 7-X, Sibylle Günter, proudly displaying a picture of the first plasma. Next, the researchers want to create a plasma from hydrogen – which is slightly more difficult.

And the principle of nuclear fusion is so amazingly easy. The researchers fill just some fuel in the vacuum tube and switch on the heater from extremely strong microwave. “Have the thousandfold performance of kitchen microwave oven”, clarifies IPP physicist Volker Erckmann. “Would you fry a whole ox so he’d be cooking in a minute.”