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Lithium — it’s not just for batteries: The powdered metal can reduce instabilities in fusion plasmas, scientists find

You may be most familiar with the element lithium as an integral component of your smart phone’s battery, but the element also plays a role in the development of clean fusion energy. When used on tungsten surfaces in fusion devices, lithium can reduce periodic instabilities in plasma that can damage the reactor walls, scientists have found. 

Lithium — it’s not just for batteries: The powdered metal can reduce instabilities in fusion plasmas

You may be most familiar with the element lithium as an integral component of your smart phone’s battery, but the element also plays a role in the development of clean fusion energy. When used on tungsten surfaces in fusion devices, lithium can reduce periodic instabilities in plasma that can damage the reactor walls, scientists have found.

Ten stories in 2017 you may have missed, plus a bonus

Throughout 2017 researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have produced new insights into the science of fusion energy that powers the sun and stars and the physics of plasma, the hot, charged state of matter that consists of electrons and atomic nuclei, or ions, and makes up 99 percent of the visible universe. The research advances the development of fusion as a safe, clean and plentiful source of power, produced in doughnut-shaped facilities called tokamaks, and explores the diverse aspects and applications of plasma.

The blob that ate the tokamak: Physicists gain understanding of how bubbles at the edge of plasmas can drain heat and reduce fusion reaction efficiency

To fuse hydrogen atoms into helium, doughnut-shaped devices called tokamaks must maintain the heat of the ultrahot plasma they control. But like boiling water, plasma has blobs, or bubbles, that percolate within the plasma edge, reducing the performance of the plasma by taking away heat that sustains the fusion reactions.

The blob that ate the tokamak: Physicists gain understanding of how bubbles at the edge of plasmas can drain heat and reduce fusion reaction efficiency

To fuse hydrogen atoms into helium, doughnut-shaped devices called tokamaks must maintain the heat of the ultrahot plasma they control. But like boiling water, plasma has blobs, or bubbles, that percolate within the plasma edge, reducing the performance of the plasma by taking away heat that sustains the fusion reactions.

Research led by PPPL provides reassurance that heat flux will be manageable in ITER

A major issue facing ITER, the international tokamak under construction in France that will be the first magnetic fusion device to produce net energy, is whether the crucial divertor plates that will exhaust waste heat from the device can withstand the high heat flux, or load, that will strike them. Alarming projections extrapolated from existing tokamaks suggest that the heat flux could be so narrow and concentrated as to damage the tungsten divertor plates in the seven-story, 23,000 ton tokamak and require frequent and costly repairs.

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