Scientists to inject hydrogen into fusion device

GREIFSWALD, Germany - Scientists in northeast Germany were poised to flip the switch Wednesday on an experiment they hope will advance the quest for a clean and safe form of nuclear power.

See Full Article

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Greifswald planned to inject a tiny amount of hydrogen and heat it until it becomes a super-hot gas known as plasma, mimicking conditions inside the sun.

It's part of a world-wide effort to harness nuclear fusion, a process in which atoms join at extremely high temperatures and release large amounts of energy.

Advocates acknowledge that the technology is probably many decades away, but argue that - once achieved - it could replace fossil fuels and conventional nuclear fission reactors.

Construction has already begun in southern France on ITER, a huge international research reactor that uses a strong electric current to trap plasma inside a doughnut-shaped device long enough for fusion to take place. The device, known as a tokamak, was conceived by Soviet physicists in the 1950s and is considered fairly easy to build, but extremely difficult to operate.

The team in Greifswald, a port city on Germany's Baltic coast, is focused on a rival technology invented by the American physicist Lyman Spitzer in 1950. Called a stellarator, the device has the same doughnut shape as a tokamak but uses a complicated system of magnetic coils to achieve the same result.

The Greifswald device should be able to keep plasma in place for much longer than a tokamak, said Thomas Klinger, who heads the project.

"The stellarator is much calmer," he said in a telephone interview. "It's far harder to build, but easier to operate."

Known as the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator, or W7-X, the 400-million-euro ($435-million) device was first fired up in December using helium, which is easier to heat. Helium also has the advantage of "cleaning" any minute dirt particles left behind during the construction of the device.

David Anderson, a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin who isn't involved in the project, said the project in Greifswald looks promising so far.

"The impressive results obtained in the startup of the machine were remarkable," he said in an email. "This is usually a difficult and arduous process. The speed with which W7-X became operational is a testament to the care and quality of the fabrication of the device and makes a very positive statement about the stellarator concept itself. W7-X is a truly remarkable achievement and the worldwide fusion community looks forward to many exciting results."

While critics have said the pursuit of nuclear fusion is an expensive waste of money that could be better spent on other projects, Germany has forged ahead in funding the Greifswald project, which in the past 20 years has reached (euro)1.06 billion euros if staff salaries are included. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who holds a doctorate in physics, is expected to attend Wednesday's event, which happens to be in her constituency.

Over the coming years W7-X, which isn't designed to produce any energy itself, will test many of the extreme conditions such devices will be subjected to if they are ever to generate power, said John Jelonnek, a physicists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany.

Jelonnek's team is responsible for a key component of the device, the massive microwave ovens that will turn hydrogen into plasma, eventually reaching 100 million degrees Celsius (212 million Fahrenheit).

Compared to nuclear fission, which produces huge amounts of radioactive material that will be around for thousands of years, the waste from nuclear fusion would be negligible, he said.

"It's a very clean source of power, the cleanest you could possibly wish for. We're not doing this for us, but for our children and grandchildren."


Latest Tech & Science News

  • Forest tours offered in Chinese to promote conservation in B.C.

    Tech & Science CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- Conservationists have their eyes on a demographic that hasn't been tapped into before in terms of educating people about British Columbia's old growth forests. About half a million people in B.C.'s Lower Mainland are Chinese-language speakers, yet most environmental programs and tours are offered in English only, said Ken Wu, executive director of the Ancient Forest Alliance. Source
  • U.S. presidential election uses hodge-podge of voting technology

    Tech & Science CBC News
    When Americans go the polls on Nov. 8, they'll be casting votes using a wide array of technology, from touchscreens to pen and paper. In light of Donald Trump's claims of election fraud — and with the memory of the disputed presidential election of 2000 still looming — that technology could be under more scrutiny than ever in this year's presidential election. Source
  • Attacks that disrupted Twitter, Paypal, Spotify were just a dry run, hackers say

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Could millions of connected cameras, thermostats and kids' toys bring the internet to its knees? It's beginning to look that way. On Friday, epic cyberattacks crippled a major internet firm, repeatedly disrupting the availability of popular websites across North America and Europe such as Twitter, Netflix and PayPal. Source
  • Attacks on the internet getting bigger and nastier

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Could millions of connected cameras, thermostats and kids' toys bring the internet to its knees? It's beginning to look that way. On Friday, epic cyberattacks crippled a major internet firm, repeatedly disrupting the availability of popular websites across the United States. Source
  • Glenn Greenwald weighs in on WikiLeaks data dump on Clinton

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Two people at the heart of the most earth-shattering leaks of stolen data in the past few years are at odds about how those troves of documents should be handled in public. "You'd have to be a sociopath to think that we ought to just take all of this material and dump it all on the internet without regard to the impact that it will have for innocent people," says Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who first reported on the massive document leak provided to him by former U.S. Source
  • Alberta to spend more to cut methane emissions

    Tech & Science CTV News
    EDMONTON - Alberta plans to spend more money to cut methane emissions. Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says another $33 million will be added to the $7 million already pledged to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas by 45 per cent by 2025. Source
  • 'Red Dead Redemption 2' - 3 ways it could fail [Photos]

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    Saddle up, pardner. It looks like we’re going back to the Wild West. Rockstar Games, the video game empire behind the juggernaut Grand Theft Auto series, set the Internet on fire this week by releasing mysterious images that suggest – nay, outright declare – another game in the Red Dead series is on its way. Source
  • Cyberattacks disrupt Twitter, Netflix, PlayStation Network, others

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    LONDON — Cyberattacks on a key Internet firm repeatedly disrupted the availability of popular websites across the United States on Friday, according to analysts and company officials. The attack had knock-on effects for users trying to access popular websites from across America, Canada and even in Europe. Source
  • Russian indicted on charges he hacked LinkedIn

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- A Russian man has been charged with hacking and stealing information from computers at LinkedIn and other San Francisco Bay Area companies, federal prosecutors announced Friday. A grand jury indicted Yevgeniy Aleksandrovich Nikulin, 29, of Moscow, Russia, on Thursday on charges including computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft, the U.S. Source
  • Why it's so hard to land on Mars: Bob McDonald

    Tech & Science CBC News
    It looks more and more like the Schiaparelli lander crashed on Mars this week, a huge disappointment for the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. But the incident is only the last in a long history of robot missions to Mars, where almost 60 per cent have failed for one reason or another. Source