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From research conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics

Plasma stability made to measure

As the buildings go up on the construction site in Cadarache in the south of France where the international ITER fusion test reactor will be housed, physicists around the world are fine-tuning the processes that will take place inside. As the precursor of a demonstration power plant, ITER will produce energy from the fusion of atomic nuclei – much like the sun.

Foto Regelspuleneinbau
Einbau von Regelspulen in das Plasmagefäß der Fusionsanlage ASDEX Upgrade. Photo/Graphic: IPP/V. Rohde.

The open questions that are being heatedly debated in this field include the phenomenon of “edge localized modes” – energetic outbursts at the plasma edge. These can damage the wall of the plasma vessel but are also capable of expelling undesirable impurities from the plasma. Hence, what is needed are custom-made (i.e., sufficiently weak) instabilities. For this purpose special control coils were installed on the wall of the plasma vessel in the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device in Garching. Now, after a one-year installation period, the coils have enabled scientists to adjust the plasma instabilities to the required level. This has brought them much closer to answering the question of how the energy generated in the ITER plasma can be smoothly extracted.

Isabella Milch

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