Fusion reactor Wendelstein 7-X of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics was able to generate its first hydrogen plasma by firing it up to a scorching 80 million degrees Celsius.
The event marks the start of the researchers' scientific operation after nearly two decades of construction, not to mention billions of Euros in investments.
The researchers take inspiration from the sun and stars, which are able to derive energy from the fusion of atomic nuclei. To do that, they need to achieve the high temperatures of the said cosmic materials.
The question now is how were they able to implore a piece of the sun and use it in an experiment on Earth?
The researchers from both IPP and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory kept the superheated plasma inside a magnetic field that was produced by superconducting coils, which temperatures have been lowered down to almost absolute zero. The plasma never touched the walls of the vacuum.
There are two types of fusion reactor device designs: the tokamak and the stellarator. Wendelstein is a stellarator, which has the advantage of generating continuous power, instead of mere energy pulses.
The objective of the entire experiment is to create limitless, safe and clean energy via fusion power plants.
"Rising energy demands and the vision of an almost inexhaustible energy source are convincing arguments for investing in fusion," says German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel was the one who pushed the button to generate the device's first hydrogen plasma at a gathering on Feb. 3 in Greifswald, Germany. The event was attended by several guests in the fields of science and politics.
The experiment is still in its initial stage, which will run until mid-March. After this time, the plasma container will be opened so scientists can put carbon tiles for the improved protection of vessel walls and the impurity-removing divertor.
Project head Dr. Thomas Klinger says these centers will allow scientists to achieve higher heating powers, temperatures and longer discharges that can last up to ten seconds.
The scientists plan to perform consecutive extensions in the next four years until they are able to generate discharges that last 30 seconds.