Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MIT reactor aids study of potential energy source

15.02.2007
For about six months of the year, bursts of a hot, electrically charged gas, or plasma, swirl around a donut-shaped tube in a special MIT reactor, helping scientists learn more about a potential future energy source: nuclear fusion.

During downtimes when the reactor is offline, as it is right now, engineers make upgrades that will help them achieve their goal of making fusion a viable energy source--a long-standing mission that will likely continue for decades.

MIT's reactor, known as Alcator C-Mod, is one of several tokamak plasma discharge reactors in the world. Inside the reactor, magnetic fields control the superheated plasma (up to 50 million degrees Kelvin) as it flows around the tube.

Fusion occurs when two deuterons, or one deuteron and one triton--nuclei of heavy hydrogen--fuse, creating helium and releasing energy. The reactions can only occur at extremely high temperatures.

Although MIT's reactor is smaller than others, it has a stronger magnetic field than some larger reactors, allowing the plasma to become denser at comparable temperatures. "That positions us to provide important data you can't get anywhere else," said Earl Marmar, head of MIT's Alcator C-Mod project and senior research scientist in the Department of Physics.

One major goal of the upgrades is to create a system where plasma can flow in a steady state, rather than short pulses, or bursts.

Last year, engineers added a microwave generator that creates phased waves that flow around the ring, reinforcing the plasma current. The microwaves interact with the highest velocity electrons in the plasma, pushing them around the ring.

"It's possible to use this approach to go to fully steady-state plasma," Marmar said. "As an attractive energy source, ultimately we want steady state."

Benefits of a steady-state system include a constant energy output, less need for energy storage and less stress on the system, he said.

This year's modifications include the installation of a cryopump, which will allow scientists to control the density of the plasma over a long period of time--another necessary step to achieving a steady-state flow.

Several other modifications will allow the researchers to more accurately measure properties of the plasma, such as density and temperature. The new devices will also allow them to more accurately detect and measure magnetic and electric fields generated by the plasma.

The reactor, which has been offline for upgrades since August, is expected to be ready to use again starting in March.

More than 100 MIT researchers from the Departments of Physics, Nuclear Science and Engineering, and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, including about 30 graduate students, use the Alcator C-Mod reactor to run experiments.

On a recent morning, the control room, normally packed with scientists at about 100 computer monitors, was nearly empty while engineers, scientists and students worked on modifications to the reactor, located in the next room.

When experiments are going on, researchers from around the world can participate in and watch the proceedings through the Internet.

There is high demand for time to run experiments on the reactor, but priority is given to projects that have high relevance to the Alcator goals and also to MIT graduate student research projects.

"One of our highest priorities is to get graduate students the run time they need," Marmar said.

For more information on the Alcator project, visit www.psfc.mit.edu/research/alcator/.

Elizabeth A. Thomson | MIT News Office
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu
http://www.psfc.mit.edu/research/alcator/

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Waste from paper and pulp industry supplies raw material for development of new redox flow batteries
12.10.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Low-cost battery from waste graphite
11.10.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Osaka university researchers make the slipperiest surfaces adhesive

18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Los Alamos researchers and supercomputers help interpret the latest LIGO findings

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>