One step closer to controlled thermonuclear fusion


20/01/2012

Using a heating system, physicists have succeeded for the first time in preventing the occurrence of instabilities, having developed an innovative technology, which is an important step towards the creation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

Scientists were able to reach a milestone: they stopped the growth of instabilities inside a nuclear fusion reactor. How so? We present our introspective look at this source of energy, which, in spite of the difficulties with the control, is extremely promising.

Nuclear fusion is an attempt to reproduce the reactions taking place in the Sun, in a reactor in the world. When the gas is heated to a temperature of several million degrees, it becomes a plasma. Sometimes there plasma instability, disturbing plasma despite the presence of the magnetic field with which it is held. If the plasma touches the walls of the reactor, it will lead to her sudden cooling and the emergence of a large electromagnetic disturbance in the reactor.

The goal is to reduce instabilities in the depths of the plasma to such a level that they do not increase beyond measure, but the fusion reaction is not completely died out. Hence the need for establishing such a balance, in which plasma is held firmly by a magnetic field. Applying a custom antenna that emits electromagnetic radiation, physicists from the Institute for the Study of Plasma Physics learned to suppress instability as they occur, thus affecting only the local region of their origin without affecting the rest of the installation.

Physicists first conducted simulations designed to test the degree to which certain frequencies of radiation, affecting the local region of the plasma, are able to suppress the growth of instabilities. Then tests were carried out to confirm the calculations made. The beauty of their approach is that they can use the same antenna, which are part of the system and plasma heat already present in the large current Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor world called JET. Surprisingly, and model tests have shown that heating and suppressing instabilities may be combined in one device, which will be slightly shift the direction of radiation.

The next step will be adding a system of sensors that will counteract instability in real time over longer periods of time. Thereafter, these improvements can be applied in a fusion reactor ITER, which is developed in southern France.

Original: Physorg


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