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Science & Technology

Germany's nuclear fusion reactor really works

By T.K. Randall
December 6, 2016 · Comment icon 26 comments



Engineers working on the Wendelstein 7-X. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Max Planck Institute
Scientists have confirmed that the experimental machine is operating with 'unprecedented accuracy'.
Often seen as the Holy Grail of power generation, nuclear fusion is the same process that produces energy in the sun and works by fusing hydrogen nuclei together to create helium.

Unlike nuclear fission which comes with the inherent risk of a meltdown, fusion is much cleaner and safer while the hydrogen fuel used by the process is so abundant that it is practically limitless.

Germany's Wendelstein 7-X (W 7-X) stellerator is one of several projects around the world aiming to make the dream of nuclear fusion energy a reality. Following initial operations back in February, the scientists behind the reactor have now reported that it has managed to exceed expectations.
Key to the success has been creating the super-strong three-dimensional magnetic fields necessary to keep balls of plasma in place long enough for a nuclear fusion reaction to occur.

Recent tests of the system have reported an impressive error rate that is less than one in 100,000.

"To our knowledge, this is an unprecedented accuracy, both in terms of the as-built engineering of a fusion device, as well as in the measurement of magnetic topology," the scientists wrote.

The achievement is certainly good news, but there is still a long way to go yet before nuclear fusion energy becomes a reality. Following six decades of research however, the fact remains that we are getting ever closer to achieving what would be one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs in history.

Source: Science Alert | Comments (26)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #17 Posted by Grandpa Greenman 6 years ago
Yup, that is about it, Frank. ††We got solar technology that works,†but is held back by power companies who don't want to lose their power monopoly. †But you can't keep a good idea down forever, once the jin is out of the bottle there isn't stopping it. Kind of like the atomic bomb, once the science is out there then people are going to use it for better or worse. †This year has left me stunned and disheartened. Oh well, have a Merry Solstice, Frank.†††
Comment icon #18 Posted by OverSword 6 years ago
No conspiracy mode necessary.† That's really a pretty insulting statement.† Despite your pessimism I have no doubt that we are 20 years or less away from this technology being ready to replace current means of energy production. When first perfected this technology will be proprietary for some years and many of the current energy giants will be forced out of business.† If you honestly don't think that is enough to start wars then you have not been living on this planet for long.† World wide electrical production profits I would guess total into the hundreds of billions of dollars at least.†
Comment icon #19 Posted by Derek Willis 6 years ago
Yes, the UK were at the forefront of many technologies back then - nuclear fission and fusion, jet aircraft, rockets, computers. I think this was because of the momentum created by the innovations of the Second World War. However, for the past three or four decades the†succession of political buffoons who run the country have had little interest in science and technology.† I had read about Tube Alloys in passing, but I had not realized how significant it was in establishing the practicality of a fission bomb. I note it was your compatriot Niels†Bohr who saw how isolating uranium-235 was the ke... [More]
Comment icon #20 Posted by Parsec 6 years ago
Considering that in my original post I quoted OverSword and was directly replying to what he wrote, it's pretty obvious that "they" I referred to were the energy companies he mentioned.† Regarding "what have they done", again, it was already in his post † Before patronising people you should at least take the time to actually read all their rantings.†
Comment icon #21 Posted by Derek Willis 6 years ago
Are you saying you think the energy companies are already preventing implementation of fusion energy before the technology has even†been demonstrated?††
Comment icon #22 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 6 years ago
I am sorry if I have insulted you, but I wasn't aware that you would be this easily offended. Apparently you didn't catch the fact that the quote†"Fusion power is allways 20 years in the future and it have been so for the last 50 years." †is a joke that have been told for years among the people working with fusion research. Its not something†I†made up.†You would have known that if you had read Derek Willis' post # 6.† I could choose to be offended by the fact that you call me a pessimist, despite the fact that I linked to examples of what is being done to make fusion power†a reality, but I am ... [More]
Comment icon #23 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 6 years ago
See Derek Willis' post # 22.
Comment icon #24 Posted by sepulchrave 6 years ago
It is worth remembering that nuclear fusion is relatively easy to achieve, and even high school students have built table-top cold fusion reactors. However building a nuclear fusion reactor that generates power, instead of using power, is a much more difficult problem - one that has not yet unambiguously been achieved.
Comment icon #25 Posted by sepulchrave 6 years ago
It is worth remembering that nuclear fusion is relatively easy to achieve, and even high school students have built table-top cold fusion reactors. However building a nuclear fusion reactor that generates power, instead of using power, is a much more difficult problem - one that has not yet unambiguously been achieved.
Comment icon #26 Posted by Derek Willis 6 years ago
We also have to remember that nuclear fusion will only be of value to humanity when its output exceeds all the energy used to construct the fifty years worth of research facilities and then the generation stations.†And because we live in a commercial world, when enough income has been produced to offset the billions spent on research over fifty years and the generation station†construction. Personally, I believe this will be achieved by the end of this century.


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