May 9, 2020

Nuclear fusion scientists just solved a major problem in harnessing plasma hotter than the Sun

Posted by in categories: innovation, nuclear energy

Circa 2018 face_with_colon_three

Jong-Kyu Park and colleagues predicted a set of distortions that could control ELMs without any additional instabilities. They then tested these distortions at the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR)—a ring-shaped magnetic fusion confinement device. Their experiments worked.

“We show for the first time the full 3D field operating window in a tokamak to suppress ELMs without stirring up core instabilities or excessively degrading confinement,” Park said. “For a long time we thought it would be too computationally difficult to identify all beneficial symmetry-breaking fields, but our work now demonstrates a simple procedure to identify the set of all such configurations.”

This breakthrough means scientists will be able to better predict the distortions for a far larger tokamak—the ITER, the world’s largest fusion experiment that will take place inside the most complex machine ever built. Being able to control the plasma inside the ITER Tokamak will be essential if fusion energy is to be produced from it. At the moment, scientists believe the ITER Tokamak will start producing plasma in December 2025.

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