Type-I ELM plasma instabilities can melt the walls of fusion devices. A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) and the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) found a way to get them under control. Their work is published in the journal Physical Review Letters.
Nuclear fusion power plants could one day provide a sustainable solution to our energy problems. That is why research is being carried out worldwide on this method of energy generation, which imitates processes on the sun. For the principle to work on Earth, plasmas must be heated to at least 100 million degrees Celsius in reactors. Magnetic fields enclose the plasma so that the wall of the reactor does not melt. This only works because the outermost centimeters in the magnetically formed plasma edge are extremely well insulated. In this region, however, plasma instabilities, so-called edge localized modes (ELMs), occur frequently. During such an event, energetic particles from the plasma may hit the wall of the reactor, potentially damaging it.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Garching and from the Vienna University of Technology have now been able to show: There is an operating mode for fusion reactors that avoids this problem. Instead of large, potentially destructive instabilities, one intentionally accepts many small instabilities that do not pose a problem for the reactor's wall.
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