French Tokamak Achieves Fusion Milestone with Tungsten Walls, Bringing 'Limitless Energy' Closer to Reality


Tungsten-Encased Tokamak Shatters Fusion Plasma Records, Paving the Way for Cleaner Energy

In a groundbreaking achievement, a tokamak in France has set a new record in fusion plasma by encasing its reaction in tungsten, a heat-resistant metal that allows physicists to sustain hot plasmas for longer periods and at higher energies and densities than ever before. This milestone brings the world one step closer to the elusive goal of harnessing clean, virtually limitless energy through nuclear fusion.

The recent achievement was made in WEST (tungsten (W) Environment in Steady-state Tokamak), a tokamak operated by the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). Scientists injected the tokamak with 1.15 gigajoules of power and successfully sustained a plasma of about 50 million degrees Celsius for an impressive six minutes.

The key to this record-breaking performance lies in the tokamak's interior, which was encased in tungsten, a metal known for its extraordinarily high melting point. Researchers from Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory utilized an X-ray detector inside the tokamak to measure various aspects of the plasma and the conditions that made this feat possible.

"These are beautiful results," exclaimed Xavier Litaudon, a scientist with CEA and chair of the Coordination on International Challenges on Long duration OPeration (CICLOP). "We have reached a stationary regime despite being in a challenging environment due to this tungsten wall."

Nuclear fusion, the process by which atoms fuse and release a tremendous amount of energy, is often confused with nuclear fission, which involves splitting atoms to produce energy and creates nuclear waste. In contrast, nuclear fusion is seen as a potential holy grail of energy research, offering a clean process that could potentially produce more energy than it consumes.

Earlier this year, the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy also made strides in this field by installing a tungsten diverter in its KSTAR tokamak, replacing the device's carbon diverter. According to Korea's National Research Council of Science and Technology, the new diverter doubled the reactor's heat flux limit, enabling the institute's team to sustain high-ion temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius for extended periods.

Luis Delgado-Aparicio, lead scientist for PPPL's physics research and X-ray detector project, and the laboratory's head of advanced projects, emphasized the challenges of working with tungsten: "The tungsten-wall environment is far more challenging than using carbon. This is, simply, the difference between trying to grab your kitten at home versus trying to pet the wildest lion."

As scientists continue to push the boundaries of nuclear fusion research, the recent achievements in France and South Korea mark significant steps forward in the quest for cleaner, more sustainable energy sources. With the potential to revolutionize the global energy landscape, the world eagerly awaits further developments in this exciting field.