Nav: Home

PPPL diagnostic is key to world record of German fusion experiment

July 09, 2018

When Germany's Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) fusion facility set a world record for stellarators recently, a finely tuned instrument built and delivered by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) proved the achievement. The record strongly suggests that the design of the stellarator can be developed to capture on Earth the fusion that drives the sun and stars, creating "a star in a jar" to generate a virtually unlimited supply of electric energy.

The record achieved by the W7-X, the world's largest and most advanced stellarator, was the highest "triple product" that a stellarator has ever created. The product combines the temperature, density and confinement time of a fusion facility's plasma -- the state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei that fuels fusion reactions -- to measure how close the device can come to producing self-sustaining fusion power. (The triple product was 6 x 1026 degrees x second per cubic meter -- the new stellarator record.)

Spectrometer maps W7-X temperature

The achievement produced temperatures of 40 million degrees for the ions and an energy confinement time, which measures how long it takes energy to leak out across the confining magnetic fields, of 0.22 seconds. (The density was 0.8 x 1020 particles per cubic meter.) Measuring the temperature was an x-ray imaging crystal spectrometer (XICS) built by PPPL physicist Novimir Pablant, now stationed at W7-X, and engineer Michael Mardenfeld at PPPL. "The spectrometer provided the primary measurement," said PPPL physicist Sam Lazerson, who also collaborates on W7-X experiments.

Pablant implemented the device with scientists and engineers of the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics (IPP), which operates the stellarator in the Baltic Sea town of Greifswald, Germany. "It has been a great experience to work closely with my colleagues here on W7-X," Pablant said. "Installing the XICS system was a major undertaking and it has been a pleasure to work with this world-class research team. The initial results from these high-performance plasmas are very exciting, and we look forward to using the measurements from our instrument to further understanding of the confinement properties of W7-X, which is a truly unique magnetic fusion experiment."

Researchers at IPP welcomed the findings. "Without XICS we could not have confirmed the record," said Thomas Sunn Pedersen, director of stellarator edge and divertor physics at IPP. Concurred physicist Andreas Dinklage, lead author of a Nature Physics paper confirming a key feature of the W7-X physical design: "The XICS data set was one of the very valuable inputs that confirmed the physics predictions."

PPPL physicist David Gates, technical coordinator of the U.S. collaboration on W7-X, oversaw construction of the instrument. "The XICS is an incredibly precise device capable of measuring very small shifts in wavelength," said Gates. "It is a crucial part of our collaboration and we are very grateful to have the opportunity to participate in these important experiments on the groundbreaking W7-X device."

PPPL provides addedl components

PPPL has designed and delivered additional components installed on the W7-X. These include a set of large trim coils that correct errors in the magnetic field that confines W7-X plasma, and a scraper unit that will lessen the heat reaching the divertor that exhausts waste heat from the fusion facility.

The recent world record was a result of upgrades that IPP made to the stellarator following the initial phase of experiments, which began in December 2015. Improvements included new graphite tiles that enabled the higher temperatures and longer duration that produced the results. A new round of experiments is to begin this July using the new scraper unit that PPPL delivered.

Stellarators, first constructed in the 1950s under PPPL founder Lyman Spitzer, can operate in a steady state, or continuous manner, with little risk of the plasma disruptions that doughnut-shaped tokamak fusion facilities face. But tokamaks are simpler to design and build, and historically have confined plasma better, which accounts for their much wider use in fusion laboratories around the world.

An overall goal of the W7-X is to show that the twisty stellarator design can confine plasma just as well as tokamaks. When combined with the ability to operate virtually free of disruptions, such improvement could make stellarators excellent models for future fusion power plants.
-end-
PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas -- ultra-hot, charged gases -- and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Related Plasma Articles:

Plasma-driven biocatalysis
Compared with traditional chemical methods, enzyme catalysis has numerous advantages.
How bacteria protect themselves from plasma treatment
Considering the ever-growing percentage of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, interest in medical use of plasma is increasing.
A breakthrough in the study of laser/plasma interactions
Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and CEA Saclay have developed a particle-in-cell simulation tool that is enabling cutting-edge simulations of laser/plasma coupling mechanisms.
Researchers turn liquid metal into a plasma
For the first time, researchers at the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) have found a way to turn a liquid metal into a plasma and to observe the temperature where a liquid under high-density conditions crosses over to a plasma state.
How black holes power plasma jets
Cosmic robbery powers the jets streaming from a black hole, new simulations reveal.
Give it the plasma treatment: strong adhesion without adhesives
A Japanese research team at Osaka University used plasma treatment to make fluoropolymers and silicone resin adhere without any adhesives.
Chemotherapeutic drugs and plasma proteins: Exploring new dimensions
This review provides a bird's eye view of interaction of a number of clinically important drugs currently in use that show covalent or non-covalent interaction with serum proteins.
The coming of age of plasma physics
The story of the generation of physicists involved in the development of a sustainable energy source, controlled fusion, using a method called magnetic confinement.
Intense microwave pulse ionizes its own channel through plasma
More than 30 years ago, researchers theoretically predicted the ionization-induced channeling of an intense microwave beam propagating through a neutral gas (>103 Pa) -- and now it's finally been observed experimentally.
Plasma thruster: New space debris removal technology
A Japanese and Australian research group has discovered new technology to remove space debris using a single propulsion system in a helicon plasma thruster.
More Plasma News and Plasma Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.