Friday, November 11, 2011



The idea of a fusion plant is to generate energy not by splitting rare heavy atoms as in today's nuclear powerplants, but by fusing together much more common light ones. This is the process which powers the Sun, the ultimate source of all other energy used by humanity [..] A fusion-powered humanity would be so rich in energy that pretty much all its problems would be solved: as much fresh water as anyone required could be made from the sea, deserts could become green, the cheapest way to produce petrol would be to make it out of carbon-bearing waste such as sewage or landfill, etc etc.

For that to happen, however, various issue with plasma containment must be solved - and solved now, so that the knowledge can be incorporated into ITER's design. One such problem is the interplay between turbulence on the surface of the bottled-up plasma and flows which build up as heat increases, eventually causing the turbulent eddies to be suppressed. This is important as turbulence dissipates energy and could rob ITER of success if not properly understood and controlled.

However, [scientists] in the US have been studying this effect using the smaller DIII-D tokamak in San Diego.