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The patent, for a portion of the confinement system, or embodiment, is dated Feb. 15, 2018. The Maryland-headquartered defense contractor had filed a provisional claim on April 3, 2013 and a formal application nearly a year later. Our good friend Stephen Trimble, chief of Flightglobal's Americas Bureau, subsequently spotted it and Tweeted out its basic details.
The new experiments amply demonstrated the ability of the five copper trim coils and their sophisticated control system, whose operation is led on-site by PPPL [Princeton Plasma Physics Lab] physicist Samuel Lazerson, to improve the overall performance of the W7-X. “What’s exciting about this is that the trim coils and Sam’s leadership are producing scientific understanding that will help to optimize future stellarators,” said PPPL physicist Hutch Neilson, who oversees the laboratory’s collaboration on the W7-X with the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics, which built the machine and now hosts the international team investigating the behavior of plasmas confined in its unique magnetic configuration.
Achieving the control required the trim coils to perturb the magnetic field in a way that made clear the size of the error field. Complementary experiments by Lazerson and Max Planck scientist Sergey Bozhenkov then confirmed predictions of the needed power of the trim coils to correct the deviations — an amount that equaled just 10 percent of the full power of the coils. “The fact that we only required 10 percent of the rated capacity of the trim coils is a testament to the precision with which W7-X was constructed,” Lazerson said. “This also means that we have plenty of trim coil capacity to explore divertor overload scenarios in a controlled way.
"The pressures and velocities that we will be able to access with this machine will massively extend the development of our fusion target designs," Nicholas Hawker, Founder and CEO of FLF said.
"We are confident that we will reach our present goal of demonstrating fusion. Beyond that, the experimental platform that we can build with this machine will give us critical insights into the next step, which is to demonstrate gain."
The semiconductor industry wanted to put materials into chambers filled with plasma and use the resulting chemical reactions to strip off or add atoms. In theory, this process would give them the level of control they needed to make miniscule grooves and lines.
Unfortunately, the companies had unpredictable results when they used radio frequency (RF) waves to create the plasma.
“Mother Nature was not kind. It turns out that there are very complex connections between different frequencies of voltages,” said Mark Kushner, a University of Michigan professor and director of the DOE Plasma Science Center there.
Because testing the RF power levels by hand was too complex and time-consuming, they sought outside expertise.
Fortunately, ORNL [Oak Ridge National Laboratory] scientists had been using RF waves to heat up fuel for fusion for more than a decade.
“The government’s here to help you; they can actually help you!” laughed ORNL’s Gary Bell, recalling how manufacturers felt. “We got a big kick out of that.”
Modifying how they produced semiconductors allowed manufacturers to fit more components onto computer chips than ever before. Those improvements and others using plasma made it possible for companies to build smaller, lighter, more efficient cell phones, tablets, and computers.
Based on that expertise and existing technology, DOD chose GA [General Atomics, San Diego, California] to develop the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). This system speeds an aircraft down the deck of a carrier using a linear induction motor coupled to the same type of inverters that provided such precise electrical and magnetic control at DIII-D [GA’s tokamak fusion reactor]. The performance of the induction motor can be finely controlled to deliver the precise amount of acceleration and velocity necessary to launch an aircraft of a specific size and weight. Because it’s much more precise than previous systems, EMALS minimizes the physical stress put on the aircraft, increasing their lifespans, and reducing costs.
Today, the U.S. Navy is using EMALS on the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). It is also installing EMALS on all future Ford-class aircraft carriers.
An official, unclassified briefing from August 2017 shows that McGuire’s team has crafted at least four iterative experimental reactor designs, as well as an unknown number of subvariants. The most recent test example at that time was known as the T4B.
But the goals for the follow-one T5 and T6 indicate that the previous reactors were not even fully functional. The T5 would provide data on heating and inflating the plasma. Essentially, as the temperature of the plasma goes up, it expands, so it is necessary to test to make the physical limits of the confinement chamber.
The T6 appeared to be the first one Lockheed Martin would subject to a more serious high-temperature experiment. Lockheed Martin would only conduct a true, full-power demonstration with reactor large enough to represent the notional production version with the T7. Further experimental reactors would continue to validate the design on the way to the final, practical TX reactor.
The briefing says that the company now expects to have a workable compact reactor capable of generating a continuous 100 megawatts of power – the goal from the beginning – sometime in the 2020s. This is an at least five-year delay over the original schedule and is far vaguer than the previous developmental timelines.