A team of researchers in Germany has developed a special highly heated gas through an experiment on nuclear fusion. Experts believe this new discovery could lead to the creation of a cleaner and more affordable source of energy.
Hans-Stephan Bosch and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute were able to produce a loose cloud made of charged particles known as helium plasma through the use of the Wendelstein 7-X.
The W 7-X is considered to be the largest and most sophisticated stellarator in the world capable of generating nuclear fusion.
"We're very satisfied," Bosch said. "Everything went according to plan."
Scientists have long been fascinated with the idea of producing fusion devices that can mimic the properties of the Sun. These include the ability to release an incredible amount of energy without generating toxic wastes typically associated with splitting atoms, or nuclear fission.
Max Planck Institute Experiment
To produce the helium plasma, the German researchers first had to generate nuclear fusion by super heating atoms at temperatures beyond 100 million degrees. This is done in order to fuse the nuclei of the atoms.
The fusion would then occur in specially designed vacuum chamber where atoms of the heated ionized plasma can be held in place using superconducting magnets. The goal of the researchers is to prevent the atoms from coming into contact with the cold sides of the vessel.
The team used the W 7-X to find out whether they could heat atoms of helium using microwaves and contain the resulting plasma within a designated vessel.
The first helium plasma was achieved by exposing a milligram of helium to a 1.8-megawatt laser pulse inside the W 7-X.
The plasma lasted for around a tenth of a second and was able to reach temperatures of around one million degrees.
The next experiment will involve having the duration of the plasma extended and determine other ways to produce the super-heated gas more efficiently.
Bosch and his colleagues hope that they can substitute the helium gas with hydrogen by next year.