A little over a year ago, Germany turned on the world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor and faced sharp speculation over whether the machine could function as intended. Now, tests conducted by US and German researchers confirm that the experimental Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) stellarator is indeed producing magnetic fields that make controlled nuclear reactions possible, and with a high degree of accuracy and incredibly low error rate. With these test results, new confidence and hope are spreading through the renewable energy industry, as nuclear fusion could be the key to ending fossil fuel dependence worldwide.
W7-X is the first of its kind to be put into regular operation. Its processes mimic those that occur on the sun, which is a natural nuclear fusion reactor (or “stellarator”). A team of researchers from the US and Germany worked together to test the stellarator after it went online in order to learn whether it is capable of producing the sort of magnetic fields necessary to trap scorching balls of plasma long enough for nuclear fusion to occur. And it is.
The research team found that W7-X is generating magnetic fields just the way its design intended: strong, twisted, and 3D. “To our knowledge, this is an unprecedented accuracy, both in terms of the as-built engineering of a fusion device, as well as in the measurement of magnetic topology,” the researchers wrote in a report. Combined with an error rate less than one in 100,000, the tests conclude the W7-X stellarator has made history. It could become the first power plant on Earth to use little more than saltwater to create a safe, clean, long-lasting source of energy for generations to come.
The research results were recently published in the journal Nature Communications.
Via Science Alert