Scientists one step closer to harnessing nuclear fusion
Thanks to the work of two research teams, we are getting closer to achieving the dream of controlled nuclear fusion. Scientists from the U.S. and South Korea have developed a procedure to eliminate one of the main problems in achieving the goal, the instability that occurs in plasma. The second team managed to create a record-setting magnetic field under controlled conditions.
Nuclear fusion may be the key to clean, unlimited and cheap energy. This is the reaction that drives our sun. If this process could be replicated, millions of households could be powered with such energy. Humanity would ensure energy security for years to come. On top of that, the process is environmentally friendly, as it does not produce harmful byproducts such as carbon emissions or radioactive waste.
One of the mainownych problemow in achieving fusion on Earth is to reduce or completely eliminate instabilities thatora occurs in the boundary plasma (so-called. edge localized modes (ELMs). The sun releases huge pulses of energy in the form of flaresoin solar. Similar ELM flares could potentially damage reactor walls.
To control such explosions, scientists plantedoThey hurl the plasma with small magnetic waves called resonant magnetic perturbations (resonant magnetic perturbations – RMP), whichore distort the smooth shape of the plasma – releasing overpressure, whichore in turn reduce or prevent the appearance of ELMs.
The hardest part is producing enough of this distortion to eliminate ELMs without causing other instabilities and releasing too much energy. The difficulty is that a virtually unlimited number of magnetic distortions can be applied to plasma, making it extremely challenging to accurately detect the correct distortion. At least it has been until now.
Jong-Kyu Park of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in co-ohe team, working with other physicists from the US and South Korea, developed a whole set of favorable distortions to control ELMs without creating more problemsow. The kit was successfully tested at the KSTAR tokamak in South Korea.
Results of the physicist’s teamoin have been published in „Nature Physics”.
KSTAR was ideal for testing the prediction because of its advanced magnetic control for generating precise distortions. Identifying the most favorable distortions, whichore amount to less than one percent of all possible distortions that can be obtained in KSTAR would be virtually impossible without the model developed by the compositeoł American and Korean physicistsow.
– For a long time, it was thought that identifying all favorable pol is too difficult to calculate. But our work demonstrates a simple procedure for identifying a set of all such configurations – said Park
Scientists reduced the complexity of the calculations when they realized that the number of ways tooin which the plasma can distort is actually much smaller than the range of possible pol 3D, whichore can be applied to plasma. Experiments at KSTAR have confirmed predictions with remarkable accuracy.
Controlling the optimal pol will be crucial for the massive ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) tokamak under construction in France. Researchers emphasize that this tokamak will be able to produce 10 times more energy than is needed to heat the plasma.
But that’s not the only big fusion-related discovery in recent days. Researchers at the University of Tokyo succeeded in generating a record-setting magnetic field. The researchers reported on the „Review of Scientific Instruments”, That they obtained under controlled conditions in a room a magnetic field of 1200 Tesla.
For leekownania, the powerful MRI machines used for medical research are several hundred times weaker. Magnet on iceowka is a quarter of a million times weaker, and the Earth’s magnetic field about 50 millionow times weaker.
However, it should be noted that this is not the strongest man-made magnetic field. The strongest magnetic fields were obtained by compression using chemical materialoin explosive. However, this wayob can only be applied in open space and proceeds in a manner ofob uncontrolled.
Researchers in Tokyo have obtained a strong magnetic field under controlled conditions, allowing this method to be used in further research m.in. over the process of nuclear fusion.
The process of nuclear fusion itself, in a nutshell, involves combining lighter atomic nucleioin more severe. Inside the atomow are found to contain powerful reserves of energy, whichore are released during such a reaction. However, it requires very high temperatures. In order to carry out thermonuclear fusion, you need to warm up the wateror to a temperature of 100 millionoin degrees Celsius. Only then will the lighter atoms be able to combine into a heavier. And a powerful and stable magnetic field is needed to keep the plasma in check.