Wave power could contain fusion plasma

Jan 10, 2011

Researchers at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Fusion Space and Astrophysics and the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Centre for Fusion Energy may have found a way to channel the flux and fury of a nuclear fusion plasma into a means to help sustain the electric current needed to contain that very same fusion plasma.

The researchers used large scale computer simulations to confirm a longstanding prediction by US researchers that high alpha particles born in fusion reactions will be key to generating fusion power in the next planned generation of tokamaks.

The Warwick and Culham researchers were modelling the interaction of particular types of waves with alpha particles in a when they found that an expected type of wave was forming naturally within the plasma and that it was quickly growing in strength. As the simulation progressed the wave began to transfer energy from alpha particles to make an electric current which could help confine the plasma.

This particular type of waves, LH (lower hybrid) waves, are in fact often used by fusion researchers to generate the required to confine and control the plasma – but these waves are usually generated externally to the plasma and channelled into it to create the current. The Warwick researchers’ model suggests that in fact these will occur naturally in the plasmas of fusion reactors and in doing so may be able to help exploit the energy of alpha particles. This would open up far more efficient methods of creating and sustaining the current needed to confine the plasma and could provide a mechanism that would confirm earlier predictions by US researchers, that the energy of would be key to the development of fusion energy.

This work was only possible using the recently commissioned large scale computing facilities at the University of Warwick supported by EPSRC, in particular for theoretical work supporting fusion energy generation.

University of Warwick researcher Professor Sandra Chapman said:

“These large scale computer simulations capture the plasma dynamics in unprecedented detail and have opened up an exciting new area.”

Explore further: A new, tunable device for spintronics

More information: The research paper entitled : Electron Current Drive by Fusion-Product-Excited Lower Hybrid Drift Instability has just been published in Physical Review Letters and is by J. W. S. Cook, et al.

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User comments : 13

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Shootist
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 10, 2011
Faster please.
shavera
5 / 5 (3) Jan 10, 2011
more money please? ;-)
Newbeak
3 / 5 (2) Jan 10, 2011
Don't hold your breath.Fusion is perpetually "only 50 years away"..
nuge
5 / 5 (4) Jan 10, 2011
Personally I think the tokamak is too difficult. It seems like the electrostatic fusion machine called a Farnsworth-Hirsch Fusor would be a better idea (I posted a link to the wikipedia article but it came up as spam for some reason). I think perhaps too many physicists who had based their careers on tokamak technology are too invested now to mention alternatives. By the way, the best part is the name ("Good news, everyone!")
soulman
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 10, 2011
Nice finding.

Funny how the AGW deniers or EU nuts haven't yet criticized the use of computer simulations and how it doesn't reflect reality, yadda, yadda.
StillWind
5 / 5 (3) Jan 11, 2011
Nice finding.

Funny how the AGW deniers or EU nuts haven't yet criticized the use of computer simulations and how it doesn't reflect reality, yadda, yadda.


Nice to know that our simple minded trolls are present.
nuge
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 11, 2011

Nice to know that our simple minded trolls are present.


Don't feed the trolls. That's the most important survival strategy of the internet.
Magnette
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 11, 2011
Nice finding.

Funny how the AGW deniers or EU nuts haven't yet criticized the use of computer simulations and how it doesn't reflect reality, yadda, yadda.


OK I'll bite....

EU nuts? You did notice that the work is being carried in the UK which, the last time I looked at my address, is a part of the EU?
soulman
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 11, 2011
EU nuts? You did notice that the work is being carried in the UK which, the last time I looked at my address, is a part of the EU?

Sheesh! EU = Electric Universe, not European Union.
callywally
not rated yet Jan 11, 2011
This sounds to me like a piston engine heating up, where each successive discovery, each pop, brings us closer to a smoothly running fusion reactor. So close now, just a few more revelations and we are go for energy freedom!
grgfraiser
not rated yet Jan 11, 2011
I wonder if this electric field can be crated large enough to extract electricity directly from the plasma?
ekim
not rated yet Jan 11, 2011
Personally I think the tokamak is too difficult. It seems like the electrostatic fusion machine called a Farnsworth-Hirsch Fusor would be a better idea (I posted a link to the wikipedia article but it came up as spam for some reason). I think perhaps too many physicists who had based their careers on tokamak technology are too invested now to mention alternatives. By the way, the best part is the name ("Good news, everyone!")

I like this Farnsworth-Hirsch Fusor reactor design. I believe it is also called a Crossfire Fusor Reactor. However my money is on General Fusion and their reactor being the first to commercialization.
rbrtwjohnson
5 / 5 (1) Jan 12, 2011
Tokamak’s toroidal containment is far a flawed concept that has been verified over more than 30 big experiments worldwide, there is no logical/rational reason to put more money on it, perhaps only political/ideological/particular interest on it.
I think researches and investments should be concentrated on Electrostatic Fusion Machines:
Farnsworth–Hirsch Fusor: real cathode (inner grid), electrostatic containment;
Bussard Polywell: virtual cathode, recirculation of electrons, wiffleball, electrodynamic containment;
CrossFire Fusion Reactor: real cathode (magnets), anode (armature), magnetic and electrostatic confinement (penning trap) with escape mechanism.

Electrostatic acceleration is far much more energy-efficient than microwave and ohmic heating used in tokamaks.
I believe electrostatic fusion machines, when get well-funded, will produce much more practical results with less time and money than tokamak behemoths.