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Scientists Theorize One of the Problems Facing Nuclear Fusion

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The Alcator C tokamak at MIT

Fusion reactors are thought to be the mothers of all power plants. They’ll emit no gases, eat up no polluting resources and provide all of the energy humanity needs for heading towards self-destr… evolution. However, science didn’t allow us thus far to produce more energy than we consume in a nuclear fusion process, but a new theory is about to change that.

For a fusion reaction to happen, plasma has to be contained inside powerful electromagnetic shields produced by a device called tokamak. An important issue that scientists have been confronted with so far has been the fact that the plasma disappears in milliseconds in certain conditions, and they don’t know why. This makes practical fusion reactors impossible to work.

A team of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) scientists, led by Martin Greenwald from MIT, theorizes that during its existence, the plasma forms islands which cool individually and make the entire phenomenon become unstable and disappear.

Solution: The researchers can easily identify the islands responsible for that and heat them up with microwaves, so that the entire system remains stable and the fusion can occur.

However, while this theory only solves one of the main problems scientists face when working with their tokamaks, there are a lot more to go, and many of them are practical issues, says Greenwald.

[via technologyreview]

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