Nuclear fusion: a major hurdle

A major obstacle to industrial nuclear fusion, as planned in the Iter experimental reactor that will be located in Cadarache, near Marseille, has been crossed in the laboratory, announces an international team in the British monthly Nature Physics.

The researchers have experimentally demonstrated a solution that eliminates a major problem: the erosion of the internal walls of the reactor due to heating caused by instabilities in the plasma. Currently, no material is able to withstand these sudden energy discharges. To avoid these instabilities, it would suffice to "slightly disturb the magnetic field" confining the gaseous mixture of deuterium and tritium brought to very high temperature, the plasma, to "cause this field to become chaotic on the edge", according to the authors of the article.

The researchers, working under the direction of Todd Evans, of General Atomics (San Diego, Calif.) Believe that this could solve an obstacle faced by all facilities working on fusion - the tokamaks - such as Iter. Several establishments have been associated with this work, such as the Euratom-CEA Association of Cadarache.

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