Stellarator is Germany’s Devilishly Complex Nuclear Fusion

You may not have heard of a Stellarator before, but if all goes well later this month in a small university town in the far northeast of Germany, you will. That’s because the Wendelstein 7-X is finally going to be fired up. If it’s able to hold the heat of a fusion-capable plasma, it could be a huge breakthrough.

So what’s a stellarator? It’s a specific type of nuclear fusion containment geometry that, while devilishly complex to build and maintain, stands a chance at being the first fusion generator to achieve break-even, where the energy extracted from the fusion reaction is greater or equal to the energy used in creating the necessary hot plasma.

There’s an awesome video on the W7-X, and some of the theory behind the reactor just below the break.

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Deuterium Powered Homes and the Return of Cold Fusion Hype

We’ve been sent this press release claiming a new kind of fusion reaction that works at small scales using an incredibly exotic fuel material: ultra-dense deuterium. We looked into it with an open mind, and if we’re being kind we’ll conclude that there’s a ten-year long research project being undertaken by [Leif Holmlid], a single scientist whose claims would win him one or two Nobel prizes if any of it were true.

If we drop the kindness and approach it rationally, this doesn’t smell right and can’t be believed until it has been reliably reproduced by someone not associated with the original research. Let’s delve into the claim of Deuterium powered reactions, and circle around on the cold-fusion hype we found so sadly entertaining back in the ’90s.

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Caption CERN Contest Week 12

Week 11 of the Caption CERN Contest has flown by faster than the mullet or hammer pants. Thank you for all the wonderful captions. Some of our astute readers noticed that this week’s photo actually worked as cross view 3D image. This was unintentional, but a pretty cool bonus. The telephone in the background moved just enough to give the image some depth. We probably will never know what exactly these scientists were working on, and why they needed a PDP 11 with some custom hardware to run calculations. They definitely provided us with some entertaining captions though!

The Funnies:

  • “I know this PDP was expensive, but do we all REALLY need to take a photo with it? I have like serious science to do!” – [Matthew Hoskins]
  • “They all laughed at Jane when she said she was going to mine bitcoin with her 168 E. Now they fear the click of her Prada boots and Versace wardrobe. “- [mathew.stevens]
  • “Linda! We didn’t get a PDP-11 to play Zork!” – [el.Cannibal]

The winner for this week is [XLT_Frank] with “These ladies were essential to proper operation at CERN because unlike the men, they read the manuals”. As a reward for his efforts, [XLT_Frank] wins a CRT Android T-Shirt From The Hackaday Store!

On to week 12!

cern-12-smOne of the best parts of running the Caption CERN Contest is checking out the new images on CERN’s servers each week. Every week I find new images to zoom in on. I trace wires, look at equipment ID cards, and generally try to figure out what exactly is going on.

This image is no exception. At first glance, one would think the CERN photographer was trying out some multiple exposure techniques. Zooming in on the high res JPG available at the original CERN page shows that the strange phenomenon in the center of the image are actually layers of fine wire strung between the two sides of the curve. Between that and the 80’s clean room outfits, this must have been a very important piece of scientific equipment!

Add your humorous caption as a comment to this project log. Make sure you’re commenting on the contest log, not on the contest itself.

As always, if you actually have information about the image or the people in it, let CERN know on the original image discussion page.

Good Luck!

Fusion reactor wins science fairs

[Will Jack] built a heavy water fusion reactor and then won district and regional science fair projects with it. Someone give this man a job!

We looked in on his fusion reactor about a year ago. At the time he had managed to build a magnetic containment field but didn’t have the voltages or the deuterium necessary to achieve fusion. We’ll that’s all changed. Using a boron-10 lined sensor tube he’s managed to detect the rise in neutron counts that would indicate fusion. Remarkable. He’s now working on a refined gas system that will allow him to increase the deuterium purity by cutting down on the leak rate. He mentions a few other hardware improvements such as a new containment unit and an ion source upgrade. Both of these concepts go beyond our knowledge so do make sure to put on your Nuclear Engineering hat while reading through his project update.