Nuclear Fusion power has the potential to greatly enhance the energy security of the European Union. Hard at work exploring this prospective energy source is ITER, which is the international body responsible for researching the production of energy from the fusion of light atomic nuclei. And now, researchers working in Europe have developed new technology which will help bring this out.
The sun not only provides us with warmth but also the inspiration that drives scientists to discover the secrets behind developing nuclear fusion. With rising discussion surrounding Europe's energy needs, nuclear fusion is a tantalising solution which promises to solve not only our energy needs but also drastically help the world reduce its CO2 levels.
|Hall effect thruster. The electric field in a plasma double layer is so effective at accelerating ions, that electric fields are used in ion drives.
Fusion is the process whereby two light atomic nuclei of hydrogen, fuse together to form heavier nuclei, helium. During this process, large amounts of energy are released. Fusion offers the world some key features which make it an attractive option in a future energy mix. These include the safe creation of energy, waste which will not be a burden for future generations, no emission of greenhouse gases, and the capacity for large scale energy production.
ITER which is Latin for 'the way', is the joint international research and development project responsible for making this future a reality. The project draws on the experiences of its partners which include EURATOM, representing the European Union, Japan, the People´s Republic of China, India, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the USA.
Built at Cadarache in France, ITER is the next major step in international fusion research. However, for ITER to succeed, an ionised low-density gas, plasma, – has to be successfully confined in a magnetic field cage without touching the vessel wall and heated to temperatures of over 100 million degrees. In ITER, about half of this is to be accomplished with 'neutral particle heating': fast hydrogen atoms injected into the plasma transfer their energy to the plasma particles on colliding with them.
Now a major new type of high-frequency ion source developed at Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics (IPP) in Garching, near Munich, has been chosen to heat the plasma of the ITER fusion test device. This new process allows particles to accelerate three to four times faster than before; this allows them to penetrate deep enough into the voluminous plasma. Achieving something no other research team has done before.
A test rig for a source half the size of that is to be built shortly at IPP. This is to check whether the particle beam can meet the requirements for ITER. The system in the original size is then to be investigated by Italy’s ENEA fusion institute at Padua.