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Germany’s Wendelstein 7-X Stellerator Takes the Next Step Toward Fusion

Dec. 14, 2015 (EIRNS)—Following the completion of a nine-year upgrade to the world’s largest stellerator-type magnetic fusion device, on Dec. 10 the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics announced that the Wendelstein 7-X machine had produced its first helium plasma, by heating helium to 1 million degrees, using a short microwave pulse. The plasma in the machine had a duration of one-tenth of a second, and following this milestone, the next step will be to extend the duration of the plasma discharge, on the way to a sustained fusion reaction, which will require a 100 million degree plasma. Project leader Prof. Thomas Klinger explained that they started with the noble gas helium for the first trial runs, and next year will change over to a hydrogen plasma, which will be the fuel used for the fusion reaction.

The objective of the research with Wendelstein 7-X, the scientists report, is to bring stellerator performance up to that reached by tokamaks, and with a plasma lasting 30 minutes, demonstrate the advantage of this design. The production of the first magnetic field to contain a plasma in the upgraded stellerator was announced in July, and the scientific community has been anxiously looking toward the plasma experiments.