Germany Advances Towards Nuclear Fusion

Posted: Feb 4 2016, 6:42am CST | by , Updated: Feb 4 2016, 9:20pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

German Nuclear Fusion Reactor Starts
The first hydrogen plasma in Wendelstein 7-X. Photo Credit: IPP
  • German Scientists Set to Experiment with Nuclear Fusion
  • German Nuclear Fusion Reactor is the Next Big Hope for Physicists

A German fusion reactor called the Wendelstein 7-X is the next big hope for physicists.

Germany is on to something. Fusion power is the wave of the future. And the Max Planck Institute has started its Wendelstein 7-X. This is the first fusion reactor with a twisty stellarator design.

Currently it is generating hydrogen plasma and is not giving out any energy. But in the long run a lot of new developments may transpire. This fusion reactor proves the point that instead of tokamak reactors, which pulsate with the hottest substance on earth, it is safer and more stable.

Till the middle of March the test phase of the reactor will take place. After that it is a different story. The plasma will be hotter and it will run for longer periods of time. In its final stages it could discharge for half hour bursts and deliver 20 megawatts of pure power.

The price that has to be paid for allowing such a state of affairs is very huge though. This nuclear fusion reactor took 19 years to design. And it cost a total of $1.3 billion. A lot of input went into it both scientifically and financially.

The payoff is also humongous. It could lead to a solution to the energy crisis. And the good thing is that it is less fraught with dangers than nuclear fission.

As an alternative, it is definitely an idea worth exploring in reality. The clean energy in huge scads of quantities will make life a matter of living in the lap of luxury.

Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, will be attending its test phase. The fusion reactor essentially recreates the conditions that take place inside the sun. That is not to say that it actually creates an alternative sun on earth, but it definitely comes close.

The atoms start to fuse with one another at the extremely high temperatures. This is the exact opposite of nuclear fission in which uranium atoms start splitting and thus release enormous amounts of heat and energy.

The latter principle had been used in case of the atom bomb. Angela Merkel herself has a doctorate in physics. This sort of experimentation may be a little risky but it is the only way forward if we are to gain freedom from our dependence upon fossil fuels.

The predecessor of this device, the tokamak, was used by Soviet scientists in the 50s. But that is old hat now. The world and its scientists have moved on since those good old days. The Wendelstein 7-X is just the beginning of a brand new era of brave experimentation.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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