Researchers learn how to circumvent the extreme heat of plasma inside of a nuclear reactor. The trick is to re-route the plasma through a longer path until it makes contact with a “sacrificial wall”.
Way back in July researchers from Princeton University figured out how to stabilize plasma in a nuclear fusion reactor by replicating the suns own magnetic flux pump.
Then in September, Japanese scientists created a strong enough magnetic field for nuclear fusion to commence, and it was kept stable for a record amount of time.. before it blew up and destroyed their lab.
While last week China claimed to have set the record for nuclear fusion temperature with their Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) at 180 million degrees or 6 times hotter then the sun.
Scientists at the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority have learnt how to circumvent the main obstacle preventing us from sustaining nuclear fusion – a powerful eco-friendly next generation energy source that a lot of people think will eventually come to replace gas and oil. Nuclear fusion reactors are supposed to reach scorching temperatures. In the case of “Tokamak” for example, an international collaboration to build one of the first nuclear reactors, super-heated plasma is supposed to reach an incredible 100 million celsius.
In order to sustain such a high temperature without maintenance costs outpacing energy yield scientists have figured out that plasma needs to travel in a longer path throughout the reactor in order to cool it down. Then eventually it will make contact with what they call a “sacrificial wall” that is designed for replacement every couple of years. Right now the walls elemental composition is unknown, however it’s likely that it is some kind of new alloy with high temperature resistance – perhaps a meta-material, which are known for their uniquely extreme properties.
The new exhaust system will be deployed at another experimental reactor called ITER, which stands for international thermonuclear experimental reactor.
“We’re here to commercialize fusion power,” Atomic Energy Authority executive director Ian Chapman told Reuters. “I mean, fusion offers this enormous potential. There’s no long-lived radioactive waste, there’s effectively inexhaustible fuel, there’s no carbon emission. It sounds perfect, but it’s really hard to do.”
Meanwhile Chinese scientists have already reached temperatures required for nuclear fusion. The question is – can they sustain it without a similar exhaust system?