Physicists and engineers are redesigning a fusion reactor to heat plasma to temperatures twice as hot as the sun’s core.
The Wendelstein 7-X stellarator can already generate temperatures hotter than the sun. This stellarator can heat plasma to 20 million degrees centigrade (36 million degrees Fahrenheit), New Atlas reports. The sun heats plasma to 15 million degrees centigrade (27 million degrees Fahrenheit).
Scientists are planning an upgrade to the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator that could allow it to generate temperatures of 30 million degrees centigrade (54 million degrees Fahrenheit). Analysis of the earlier experiments shows they can adjust the Stellarator’s magnetic field cage to prevent a variety of heat loss known as neoclassical transport. Physicists think such adjustments can prevent enough heat loss to double the Wendelstein 7-X ‘s heat output.
Can the Wendelstein 7-X ignite fusion?
Such high temperatures could be necessary to ignite a sustainable fusion reaction. Power plants will need sustainable fusion to create enough heat to generate electricity.
There could be other uses for such super hot temperatures. The destruction of nuclear waste and steel making for example.
A stellarator uses magnetic fields to confine plasma in a weird doughnut shaped object called a torus. Theoretically, stellarators could use less injected power to sustain and contain the plasma than tokamak reactors. Hence, stellarators could be cheaper to operate. Most fusion reactors use the traditional tokamak design.
The Wendelstein 7-X in Greifswald in Northeast Germany is the world’s largest and most advanced stellarator. The Wendelstein 7-X uses 50 non-planar supercharging magnetic coils to contain the plasma. The Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) and the US Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory operate the Wendelstein 7-X.
The purpose of the Wendelstein 7-X is to test stellarators’ viability as a power source. Stellarators are incredibly complex devices. They had to use supercomputers to design the Wendelstein 7-X.
The Wendelstein 7-X is a strange-looking device. It resembles the Millennium Falcon. The outside of the device is a mechanic’s nightmare of tubes and metal straight out of a science fiction movie.
Are Commercial Stellarators Coming?
However, I know of no plans to build a commercial stellarator yet. That could change if the Wendelstein 7-X generates temperatures double those of the sun.
Commercial stellarators could be decades away because they will need to solve massive engineering problems to make them work. In particular, they will need how to contain plasma that is twice as hot as the sun’s core here on Earth.
Such temperatures could make a stellarator the ultimate fire hazard and a fearsome weapon. In addition, a stellarator could serve as the ultimate waste disposal device capable of burning anything they throw into it. The dangerous garbage stellarators could destroy includes nuclear waste; which can remain radioactive for thousands of years, and hazardous chemical and biological waste.
Investors and fusion fans need to watch the Wendelstein 7-X carefully because it could develop new fusion technology with enormous moneymaking potential. For example, cheap reactors capable of generating enormous amounts of steam or electricity without putting out greenhouse gases.