Advancing experimental fusion reactor research at the W7-X

Fusion research continues in earnest as the international scientific community strives to develop new sustainable sources of energy—important because of the ever-growing need for cheaper, cleaner forms of power generation. Much of this research has been focused on using magnetic confinement plasma physics to fuse hydrogen isotopes, and most of the experimental facilities attempting to harvest energy from the fusion of atomic nuclei employ a tokamak style of reactor.

The Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) experimental reactor in Germany, however, is trying another approach. The W7-X, a research project of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP), uses a stellarator type of reactor to confine the superheated energy-producing plasma. In contrast to the torus-shaped tokamak, the W7-X stellarator employs twisting, more elaborately-configured superconducting magnet coils for the shaping and condensing of the plasma (this video provides a nice overview of the machine’s design). As explained by IPP, the W7-X “is to put the quality of the plasma equilibrium and confinement on a par with that of a tokamak for the very first time. And with discharges lasting 30 minutes, the stellarator should demonstrate its fundamental advantage – the ability to operate continuously. In contrast, tokamaks can only operate in pulses without auxiliary equipment.”

The W7-X has been more than 15 years in the making, and recently made headlines with scientists producing the first helium plasma in the reactor—one step in determining the feasibility of the technology for eventual use in commercial power plants.

Lake Shore is proud to have its Cernox® sensors being used at various critical points in the reactor design. The stellarator coils within the magnetic cage are cooled to superconducting temperatures to allow massive amounts of current to be circulated safely. Like other plasma physics research projects where our sensors are currently used, Lake Shore sensors are used to monitor temperatures of the superconducting magnet rings.

For more about how Lake Shore sensors are used in high-energy physics applications, read about the benefit of Cernox in these scenarios.

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