We might be on the brink of achieving unlimited clean energy forever! The nuclear fusion reaction fired up by the Germans last year has been recently analyzed for performance assessment by a team of researchers from the US Department of Energy and the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics in Germany. After intensive testing, they have concluded the Wendelstein 7-X (W 7-X) stellerator produced the predicted magnetic fields with the incredibly low error rate of less than one in 100,000.
“To our knowledge, this is an unprecedented accuracy, both in terms of the as-built engineering of a fusion device, as well as in the measurement of magnetic topology.”
The magnetic fields are required for a fusion reaction to collide the two positive hydrogen atoms at high speeds, which release the required heat energy to make energy generation a possibility. The W 7-X stellerator is unique and more powerful as it can control plasma by producing 3D magnetic fields rather than a 2D field, which are often be found in tokamak reactors.
Tokamak reactors needs electricity to stabilize the plasma, but its field often gets interrupted by shorts within the current. The W 7X has no such problems, as its twisting 3-D fields allows the control over plasma without any electrical current, meaning it is more stable than their 2D counterparts.
The team utilized an electron beam to measure the reactor’s field lines and then determined its shaped by using a fluorescent rod to ‘sweep’ the lines. Physicist Sam Lazerson, who led roughly half the experiments said,
“We’ve confirmed that the magnetic cage that we’ve built works as designed. This reflects U.S. contributions to W7-X and highlights PPPL’s [Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s] ability to conduct international collaborations.”
Nuclear fusion has been the most sought-after energy source because it is inexhaustible along with having zero carbon footprint. On the idea of producing unlimited clean energy using nuclear fusion, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said in an interview:
“I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming.”
Besides the W 7-X, just recently, France’s ITER tokamak reactor, another nuclear fusion project, also managed a breakthrough by conducting their first ever fusion reaction.