German physicists at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Greifswald were able to reach a milestone in nuclear fusion energy: producing highly heated helium plasma inside a vessel.

Nuclear fusion involves combining atoms to create energy. Such concept is similar to that of the Sun's heat-generating process. The idea, once completely developed, is said to provide limitless, clean and cheap source of energy.

After nine years of investigations, not to mention the millions of money spent on experiments, the researchers were finally able to achieve a vital point in the analytic process, which is the production of heat to fuse nuclei together.

The main idea is to subject atoms to very high temperatures of more than 100 million degrees as this is the way for nuclei to combine.

The integration of the nuclei will happen in a special vacuum vessel where atoms in a hot plasma are kept floating in place by superconducting magnets. The atoms are held steady together so as to prevent it from getting in contact with the chamber's cold sides.

"We're very satisfied," said Hans-Stephan Bosch, one of the scientists. "Everything went according to plan."

The device used to perform the experiment is called Wendelstein 7-X, which is the biggest fusion machine designed in stellarator line of magnetic restriction fusion objects. In the said experiment, the researchers wanted to find out if helium atoms may be heated using a microwave laser and if the plasma can be confined inside the chamber.

Another magnetic confinement device used in nuclear fusion experiments is the tokamak, which is the only machine recognized to produce plasma that can supply energy.

Both the tokamak and stellarator are looking at enhancing the energy released from hydrogen isotope fusion so as to provide safe and efficient electrical power.

Although Wendelstein 7-X is not able to generate energy, it is said to live up to tokamak's ability of maintaining plasma balance and confinement thus, making it a viable power plant as well. Aside from that, stellarators also have the capacity to operate persistently with its 30-minute-duration discharges - something that tokamaks cannot do.

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