Research reactor with Babcock Noell technology ignites hydrogen plasma
February 18, 2016
On February 3, 2016, the research reactor Wendelstein 7-X in Greifswald, Germany generated a hydrogen plasma for the first time – a milestone on the path to successful nuclear fusion. Those attending also included representatives from Babcock Noell, which had supplied the modular field coils for the fusion experiment.
The magnetic cage for Wendelstein 7-X is generated by fifty superconducting, roughly 3.5 meter-high magnetic coils each weighing six tons – the core of the system. Their bizarre shapes are the result of elaborate optimization calculations: they should generate a particularly stable and heat-insulating magnetic cage for the plasma. Due to the desired extended pulse times, superconductors were used for the construction of the magnets. With liquid helium cooled to a cryogenic temperature near to absolute zero, they consume almost no energy once they are turned on. In order to be able to change the magnetic field, a second set of twenty flat, also superconducting coils is added.
The objective of the research is to develop a climate and environment friendly power plant which generates energy from the melting of atomic nuclei, similar to the sun. At more than 100 million degrees, the ignition temperature for this fusion fire is staggering. In order to ensure that the extremely thin fuel, a hydrogen plasma, does not cool on the walls of the combustion chamber, it is necessary to contain it in magnetic fields with virtually no contact – a task that is well worth it in the end: one gram of fusion fuel could release as much energy as eleven tons of coal.
Wendelstein 7-X is now the world’s largest fusion facility in the Stellarator class. The international major project ITER (latin for ‘the path’) which is currently being set up in Cadarache, France, will build on the experience gathered with Wendelstein 7-X, if continuous operation is achieved here, too.
“After this successful start, the entire team from Babcock Noell is proud to have made a small but very important contribution to the solution of future energy problems,” says Dr. Ronald Hepper, Managing Director at Babcock Noell.
You can find additional information on the services from Babcock Noell for Wendelstein 7-X here: