Energy

First plasma from Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor

First plasma from Wendelstein ...
The first plasma produced by the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator
The first plasma produced by the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator
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The empty plasma vessel inside Wendelstein 7-X
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The empty plasma vessel inside Wendelstein 7-X
The first plasma produced by the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator
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The first plasma produced by the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator
The first plasma in Wendelstein 7-X
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The first plasma in Wendelstein 7-X
Assembly of the Wendelstein 7-x stellarator was completed in April of last year
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Assembly of the Wendelstein 7-x stellarator was completed in April of last year
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Testing of the Wendelstein 7-x stellarator has started with a bang, albeit a very very small one, with researchers switching on the experimental fusion reactor to produce its first helium plasma at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Greifswald, Germany. After almost a decade of construction work and more than a million assembly hours, the first tests have gone according to plan with the researchers to shift focus to producing hydrogen plasma after the new year.

Assembly of the Wendelstein 7-x stellarator was completed in April of last year, and after a period of careful testing of its various components, the science team finally flicked the switch on December 10. This saw around a single milligram of helium gas heated to one million degrees Celsius (1.8 million° F), with the flash observed on cameras and measuring devices for one tenth of a second.

"We're very satisfied", said Dr. Hans-Stephan Bosch, division head of Wendelstein 7-X, following the December 10 test. "Everything went according to plan."

As part of the ongoing pursuit of a clean and reliable power source, the Wendelstein 7-x is the largest stellarator fusion device in the world and represents a different approach to typical doughnut-shaped tokamak fusion reactors. Scientists hope that the stellarator design can overcome one of the main limitations of the tokamak, where the plasma contained in the vessel is prone to drifting into the outer walls and collapsing after operating only in short bursts.

The designers of the Wendelstein 7-x are of the view that the device will offer the required stability for continuous nuclear fusion power generation. It uses a cage of 50 superconducting coils to suspend super-hot plasma in the center of a twisting magnetic field for more than 30 minutes at a time.

From its first successful tests, the team will now aim to prolong the duration of the plasma discharges and explore the best means of producing and heating helium plasma using microwaves. In January, the team will then turn its attention to producing the first plasma from hydrogen.

You can see the fleeting flash of helium plasma and the reactions of control team in the video below.

Source: Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics

Wendelstein 7-X: The first helium plasma

View gallery - 4 images
10 comments
CaptD
Salute to everyone involved, I hope they are making a video so that those of us that can't be there can share the excitement with those that were there.
The 1 TaiN
Approximate Date when First Commercial Fusion Reactor become Available...
steveraxx
Wow, awesome stuff! Congratulations to the team, and to Gizmag for making such things available to the public.
Thanks!
Arf
Impressive and exciting!
attoman
Glad to see an effort is being made in Germany! This title are more then a little deceptive. The author should have made this clear.
It did not produce fusion (clear if you read the article and know what fusion is). What was produced was a Helium glow nothing more.
Some time after January 1, 2016 the Max Planck crew hopes to make Hydrogen glow nothing more (as stated in the article). 2018? 2020? 2025? Good choice trying to actually predict when something will happen has chased a major shift in experimental staff in recent memory.
This effort is competing with four or five other active fusion groups.
To my knowledge only the ICF group at Livermore National Labs has actual made fusion and now made the fusion burn produce more energy then is used to initiate fusion. ICF stands for Inertial Confinement Fusion, a completely different method then the Planck Stellarator.
jerryd
Still can't beat DG solar or wind power in homes, buildings in delivered cost retail.
Stan Mitchell
too expensive.Big science toy
vcr
I really wish there were a specific database to keep track of all these incredible discoveries & inventions and later results as they either get developed or disappear because of something discovered or lack of financing. We seem to be getting so many exciting sounding new ideas - and then you never hear anything ever after - so what happened ? Maybe some of the concepts get deliberately killed because they are a threat to some other industry ? We should be carefully tracking all these ideas. How about it gizmag?- you could do that with all the data from previous editions of the magazine at least - it's a start.
michael_dowling
I seem to recall reading that other research fusion reactors could run for at least several seconds.One of the toroid reactors?