27 March 2008

Progress in Plasma Confinement at MIT Fusion LDX

Using a unique levitating magnet approach, MIT researchers have made progress within the past week at confining plasma with the goal of producing controlled fusion reactions.
Begun in 1998, the Levitated Dipole Experiment, or LDX, uses a unique configuration where its main magnet is suspended, or levitated, by another magnet above. The system began testing in 2004 in a "supported mode" of operation, where the magnet was held in place by a support structure, which causes significant losses to the plasma--a hot, electrically charged gas where the fusion takes place.

LDX achieved fully levitated operation for the first time last November. A second test run was performed on March 21-22 of this year, in which it had an improved measurement capability and included experiments that clarified and illuminated the earlier results. These experiments demonstrate a substantial improvement in plasma confinement--significant progress toward the goal of producing a fusion reaction-- and a journal article on the results is planned. ___MIT__via__NextEnergy
MIT's LDX fusion approach confines plasmas by a more natural and controllable "pulling flux" as opposed to the "pushing flux" being attempted by Tokamak approaches such as ITER.

Novel approaches to fusion such as LDX and other new approaches to fusion described by Brian Westenhaus and Brian Wang, may very well break the tape ahead of much more expensive approaches such as ITER.

Technological breakthroughs in superconducters, nanotech materials, and optical-electronic process controls should allow the materials and infrastructural costs for alternative fusion approaches to drop considerably, over time.

Previously published at Al Fin Energy


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Blogger IConrad said...

A thought pops in my head. Have any of these researchers looked into alternative energy capture methods to lower the threshold? Or is it steam or bust, still?

Thursday, 27 March, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Different fusion approaches plan to extract the energy different ways. Heat is certainly one form of energy one can extract from fusion reactions.

One interesting idea is to use excess neutrons from sub-commercial levels of fusion to breed fertile isotopes to fission fuel. That would be one way to "lower the threshold."

Controlled fusion will be great, if the alternative approaches work.

If we have to wait for the mega-bureaucratic approaches like ITER to bring us fusion, we are doomed. May as well ask the band of inter-governmental idiots at the IPCC to solve a problem--any problem.

Thursday, 27 March, 2008  
Blogger IConrad said...

The "steam-or-bust" comment was more aimed at the bureaucratized approach to fusion -- the ITER/Tokamak approach.

It occurs to me that simply utilizing a combination of photovoltaic, thermovoltaic, and radioisotopovoltaic (wow, I coined a word I think) materials as 'lining' for the confinement electromagnets might just produce a higher energy yield per erg introduced.

But from what I can see, they're basically just trying to make a hotter heat source. This defies logic.

Friday, 28 March, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Check out the post above on "Carnival of Space #47". The approach to making electricity from radioactive particles may have a huge impact for nuclear batteries--and even conventional fission reactors!

Friday, 28 March, 2008  

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