Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy?
Highlighting research projects under development in the Technology Collaboration Programmes
What is the aim of this project?
Wendelstein 7-X is one of the largest nuclear fusion devices worldwide and the most advanced of the stellarator type. Its objective is to bring the stellarator concept to maturity in a power plant that generates electricity by using heat from fusing hydrogen nuclei.
How could this technology be explained to a high school student?
Nuclear fusion produces energy using the heat that is released when hydrogen nuclei – transformed into the plasma state of matter – fuse to form helium. The stellarator, one of two types of magnetic confinement fusion reactors under development today, is based on an optimised magnetic field that protects the hot plasma from the cold wall. The magnetic field is formed by complex superconducting magnetic field coils. These coils create a ring-shaped, twisted magnetic “cage” in which a few milligrams of hydrogen gas will be heated to temperatures of up to 100 million°C, transforming it into plasma. With plasma pulses potentially lasting up to 30 minutes, Wendelstein 7-X aims to demonstrate the essential stellarator property: continuous operation with stable high performance.
What is the value of this project for society?
At what stage of development is this project?
The project was approved in 1996 and first plasma produced in December 2015. After three successful operation phases, comprehensive upgrading of the machine began at the end of 2018. In 2022, plasma operation is expected to resume with the necessary installations for 30-minute high-performance plasma pulses.
What government policies could bring this from the lab to the market?
About the Technology Collaboration Programme on Stellarators and Heliotrons (SH TCP)
Established in 1985, the objective of the SH TCP is to improve the physics base of stellarator and heliotron technologies and to enhance the effectiveness and productivity of research and development efforts by strengthening co-operation among the member countries.
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