Physicists discover a safe way to reproduce “star power” on Earth

Power generation is an essential area. Aware of this reality, scientists have been working for many years to improve the concept of nuclear fusion. If you don’t already know, the latter is a process in which two atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus.

The aim is to release energy for electricity, among other things. Remember that nuclear fusion is the process that takes place in the sun and stars. Now a team of physicists at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory has found a method that can help create safer nuclear fusion on Earth.

Unlimited power supply in perspective

Indeed, fusion reactors combine light elements – like hydrogen – in plasma. Physicists use this plasma to generate a large amount of energy, the temperature of which can reach ten times that of the solar nucleus.

Tokamaks, the equipment used for fusion, must therefore be highly efficient and sufficiently safe to contain such heat and keep contaminants away from reactions. In this case, there is a risk that the development of a concept that could one day offer unlimited power supply will be slowed down.

Boron powder in plasma

To make things better, Princeton physicists invented a method that allows better control of the fusion. According to Robert Lunsford, lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Nuclear Fusion, the technique they developed also has the benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions while reducing emissions. Radioactive waste. It consists of injecting boron powder into the plasma. “So far, the experiment seems to have been a success,” said the scientist in the press release.

KSTAR, under construction in Daejeon (South Korea). Photo credit: Wikipedia / By Michel Maccagnan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Cheaper and less dangerous

The use of boron powder is based on the fact that this chemical element is strong enough to prevent the interaction of the tungsten from the walls of the tokamak with the plasma. Tungsten actually makes the plasma particles cool faster, which can make the reaction less efficient.

In addition, the “boronization” of the walls of the reactor would be easy to achieve in that it can be done while it is in operation. According to the researchers, the boron powder technique is also cheaper and less dangerous than the current method of introducing potentially explosive diborane gas into the plasma.