EUROPE’S FUSION PROJECTSeptember 17, 2011
Phys.org reported some rather interesting news a week ago, namely, that the Joint European Torus's most recent experiments in its wall-lining materials were successful, overcoming another hurdle in the development of fusion power:
The milestone, while underplayed in the article, was, if read closely and carefully, the testing of new materials to line the walls of the inside of the torus device, capable of withstanding the tremendous stresses and heat of the device when in operation. Previously, carbon-based materials had been used, corrupting the plasma and leading to inefficient operations. The real significance of the article is buried near its end:
"Remarkably, the first plasma with the new ITER-Like Wall lasted 15 seconds - much to the surprise of scientists. Peter Lomas, Head of Plasma Operations, comments: 'We got plasma with no impurities and we got it on the first attempt. We were prepared to struggle, but we just did what we normally do with the old carbon wall. And that is the surprise.'" Fifteen second of pure plasma stability is a remarkable threshold - especially for a first attempt - in fusion research, and notably, the article observes this is another step towards the construction of Europe's experimental fusion reactor in France, part of an international consortium investigating and sponsoring the research, including also the USA, Russia, China, Japan, India, and South Korea:
As the last article referenced states, the target date for achieving the first sustainable plasma has been set for 2019, a mere eight years away.
The article, however, contains a hint of desperation, and indeed, why is there such an unusual measure of international cooperation among nations who economic and geopolitical interests are otherwise currently in such conflict? The answer: "ITER, based at Cadarache in southern France, was set up by the EU, which has a 45 percent share, China, India, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the US to research a clean and limitless alternative to dwindling fossil fuel reserves."
One wonders, indeed, what has been done with Philo Farnsworth's Fusor and Plasmator fusion technology since his patents were first taken out in the 1960s.... they were, after all, much simpler in conception and execution than these enormous facilities, and perhaps that was their drawback, perhaps it was discovered they were not commercially feasible. But that's the point here...there's a lot of research we're simply not privy to concerning the subject of fusion.
In any case, we can only hope that these efforts will be met with some success.