- By Bilal Hazrati
Germany has successfully created a stable Nuclear fusion plasma cloud
A German nuclear fusion experiment has produced a super-hot helium isotope plasma which scientists hope will eventually lead to a reliable, cheap and clean global energy source.
The helium plasma, a cloud of loose, charged particles, lasted just a tenth of a second running at around one million degrees Celsius.
It was hailed as a breakthrough for the Max Planck Institute’s stellarator, a chamber whose design differs from the tokamak fusion devices used elsewhere.
Nuclear fusion is the same process which powers the Sun. Rather than splitting atoms as with nuclear fission, the technique used in atom bombs, fusion fuses nuclei together such is the technique used to create the more powerful H-Bombs.
Physicists are in a worldwide race to create stable fusion devices that could not only mimic the Sun but release abundant energy, without the volumes of toxic waste generated by nuclear fission. With nuclear fusion the only radio active waste produced is from the catalyst used to kick start the process, which is not used in all techniques.
The team at Greifswald, in northeastern Germany, aim in future to heat hydrogen nuclei to about 100 million C which is the necessary conditions for fusion to take place in a similar way to the Sun’s interior. They will use deuterium, a heavier isotope, of the element helium.
The stellarator’s plasma was created on Thursday using a microwave laser, a complex combination of magnets and just 10mg of helium. The Max Planck Institute calls its machine Wendelstein 7X.
The project began nine years ago and has so far ran up running costs of 1bn euros (GBP£720m/USD$1.1bn) so far.
However the EU’s main and far less successful nuclear fusion project, Iter, at Cadarache, in the south of France will not be fired up until the 2020s. Iter is controversial, having already cost more than €10bn with no results. Iter will be a tokamak device from the Russian for a ring-shaped magnetic chamber.
Scientists have been working on nuclear fusion for more than 50 years but the extreme temperatures involved and the difficulty of controlling plasma state substances mean progress is costly and very slow.
There has also been much criticism over the hypocrisy of Germany. Germany was one of the main nations along with France, Britain and the USA who enforced sanctions on other nations such as Iran, leading to the suffering of tens of millions of civilians. The sanctions were to stop other nations using small amounts of radioactive materials to create nuclear energy power plants for domestic energy supplies. At the same time, Germany and France are building the world’s most powerful and unstable nuclear reactors in an attempt to replicate the power of the Sun here on Earth.