Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Nuclear Fusion: Max Planck's Stellarator Produces Its First Hydrogen Plasma

Following up on Dec. 11's "Germany just switched on a revolutionary nuclear fusion machine ".
Since that time, as the Register reported earlier today:
...The Wendelstein 7-X has created 300 batches of six-million-degree helium plasma for the last two months, primarily because this performs the useful task of burning up any dust and impurities that were left in the device after its construction. Now the boffins are moving on to hydrogen.

Most fusion chambers follow a Soviet-designed tokamak design, a doughnut-shaped device that uses strong electrical current to hold the plasma in place. But Wendelstein 7-X is a stellarator, developed initially in the US, which uses magnetic coils to keep the plasma from burning its way out of the reaction chamber....MORE
And from IFL Science:

Germany's Fusion Reactor Creates Hydrogen Plasma In World First
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have successfully conducted a revolutionary nuclear fusion experiment. Using their experimental reactor, the Wendelstein 7-X (W7X) stellarator, they have managed to sustain a hydrogen plasma – a key step on the path to creating workable nuclear fusion. The German chancellor Angela Merkel, who herself has a doctorate in physics, switched on the device at 2:35 p.m. GMT (9:35 a.m. EST).

As a clean, near-limitless source of energy, it’s no understatement to say that controlled nuclear fusion (replicating the process that powers the Sun) would change the world, and several nations are striving to make breakthroughs in this field. Germany is undoubtedly the frontrunner in one respect: This is the second time that it’s successfully fired up its experimental fusion reactor.

Last December, the team managed to suspend a helium plasma for the first time in history, and they’ve now achieved the same feat with hydrogen. Generating a hydrogen plasma is considerably more difficult than producing a helium one, so by producing and sustaining one in today’s experiment, even for just a few milliseconds, these researchers have achieved something truly remarkable.

As a power source, hydrogen fusion releases far more energy than helium fusion, which is why sustaining a superheated hydrogen plasma represents such a huge step for nuclear fusion research.
John Jelonnek, a physicist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, led a team that was responsible for installing the powerful heating components of the reactor. “We’re not doing this for us,” he told the Guardian, “but for our children and grandchildren.”

In order to initiate the fusion process, extremely high temperatures of around 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit) have to be reached within the reactor. At these temperatures, atoms of hydrogen become energetically excited....MORE
Here's the Max Planck Institute's Stellarator page. And the press release.
Unfortunately for me, I am a mental 12-year-old and any time I type "Max Planck" I think of an old  joke and can't stop laughing. Here's a version from a 2009 post:

Breaking the Law at the Nanoscale
Old physics joke via Complexify:
During a physics lecture, the professor wrote the equation
E = h v
on the board. He then asked “What is v?”
“Planck’s constant.”
“Good. And what is h?”
“The length of the plank.”
-Adapted from Physicists continue to laugh, MIR Publishing, Moscow 1968.
Astonishingly, this is translated directly from the Russian version of the joke.
He's right, I checked with a Russian-speaking philologist (who has an astounding resemblance to this philologist).