New Plasma Confinement State May be the Secret to Fusion Energy

First Posted: Nov 12, 2015 07:29 AM EST

Scientists have discovered a new confinement state for plasma that could lead to the future of fusion energy. Researchers believe that this new finding could eventually be huge when it comes to creating more sustainable energy sources.

Scientists have long conducted research on high-temperature and high-density plasma confinement by magnetic fields as they seek the achieve fusion energy. In a magnetically confined plasma, as the core temperature of the plasma increases, the flow of disturbed plasma called turbulence emerges. Turbulences do not stop at the place of its generation, and moves circumferentially like a surge of waves.

In magnetically confined plasmas, twofold confinement areas called magnetic islands exist. In these areas, there is no temperature gradient that results in the source of turbulence. For that reason, turbulence generated outside the magnetic island where a temperature gradient exists enters into the magnetic island, and the confinement state inside the magnetic island will be determined depending upon the intensity of turbulence. In future fusion plasma it will be extremely important to improve the magnetic island's confinement state.

In this latest study, the researchers discovered a new confinement state inside a magnetic island by applying the "momentary heating propagation method" to the DIII-D plasma. The "momentary heating propagation method" allows the plasma confinement performance to be diagnosed from the amplitude of temperature variations and the propagation speed caused by the momentary heating.

This discovery is huge when it comes to future fusion research. Because it's essential for improving the confinement of the fusion reactor plasma, scientists are now examining it a bit more closely for the future.

The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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