Siberian scientists heat plasma to 4.5 million degrees
Scientists from the Budker Nuclear Physics Institute of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences have achieved a record temperature of 4.5 million degrees (400 electron volts) in a gas dynamic trap (GDT), which is used for confining hot plasma in a magnetic field.
"The achieved electron temperature makes it possible to confine heavy ions in the reaction of [thermonuclear] synthesis," Nuclear Physics Institute laboratory head, project supervisor Pyotr Bagryansky told reporters.
He said they had managed to heat the plasma thanks to a powerful source of microwave radiation developed by the Nizhny Novgorod Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
As a result, the plasma was confined for approximately ten milliseconds, which was sufficient for solving practical tasks, such as creating a neutron source for control of hybrid reactors, he said.
Meanwhile, Nuclear Physics Institute Deputy Director Alexander Ivanov said that the neutron beam intensity was one megawatt per square meter, which was equivalent to the parameters of the unfinished ITER reactor.
"We may offer programs in support of the ITER project and eventually build our own installation using this [neutron] generator, i.e. a hybrid scheme of a [thermonuclear] reactor," he said.
The prospective installation, a full-size model of which has been designed at the Nuclear Physics Institute, will be able to start up a main reactor by the required parameters, he continued.
It is planned to increase the plasma temperature by 1.5 times and to reach the neutron beam intensity of 2 megawatts per square meter.
The neutron source, a working prototype of which the Nuclear Physics Institute has developed, may cost approximately $300 million, which is much cheaper than the ITER project, Ivanov noted.
The experiments solved the main problem of open plasma traps, he added.
Earlier reports said that the Nuclear Physics Institute had achieved a record ratio of the plasma pressure to the magnetic field pressure in the GDT.
Chairman of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Aseyev said that the Nuclear Physics Institute's work would assist in the prospective development of thermonuclear reactors of a simpler design than the one used by the international reactor project underway in France.
Nuclear Physics Institute founder Gersh Budker proposed to use open plasma traps in controlled thermonuclear reactions back in the 1950s. The device was called "Budker's magnetic mirror", a more simple and reliable method than the traditional tokamak, a device using a magnetic field to confine plasma in the shape of a torus.
The ITER project with a total value of approximately $10 billion is underway in France with the purpose of proving the scientific and technological possibility of the commercial use of thermonuclear synthesis energy.
The project involves EU member countries, China, India, Russia, the United States, South Korea and Japan. The EU is supposed to contribute 40 percent of the project cost, and the other countries will contribute 10 percent each. Most of the contributions are physical - the delivery of hardware.