Physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), the University of California-Davis, and General Atomics have developed a technique that may assist in confining charged plasma within tokamaks, thereby minimizing degradations that can limit the performance of fusion reactions.
The technique that provides new insight into how instabilities within tokamaks respond to externally applied magnetic fields. Writing for PPPL, John Greenwald notes that the technique, called Electron Cyclotron Emission Imaging (ECEI), was successfully tested on the DIII-D tokamak at General Atomics. The technique uses an array of detectors to produce a 2-D profile of fluctuating electron temperatures within the plasma—as opposed to the 1-D profile that results from standard methods of diagnosing 1-D temperatures.
The technique is described in the journal Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion.
Some other organizations' related work is described at National Instruments' “Fusion Reactors” page.
In related news, Washington Post columnist George F. Will comments favorably on the efforts of PPPL and related organizations to develop fusion power. He writes, “In a scientific complex on 88 bucolic acres near [Princeton, NJ], some astonishingly talented people are advancing a decades-long project to create a sun on Earth. When—not if; when—decades hence they and collaborators around the world succeed, their achievement will be more transformative of human life than any prior scientific achievement.”
That might be an overstatement, judging from the great innovations of the past six millennia, but it would certainly rank near if not at the top.