Thursday, March 27, 2008

Levitating Magnet Fusion Makes Progress at MIT

Using a unique levitating magnet approach, MIT researchers have made progress within the past week at confining plasma with the goal of producing controlled fusion reactions.
Begun in 1998, the Levitated Dipole Experiment, or LDX, uses a unique configuration where its main magnet is suspended, or levitated, by another magnet above. The system began testing in 2004 in a "supported mode" of operation, where the magnet was held in place by a support structure, which causes significant losses to the plasma--a hot, electrically charged gas where the fusion takes place.

LDX achieved fully levitated operation for the first time last November. A second test run was performed on March 21-22 of this year, in which it had an improved measurement capability and included experiments that clarified and illuminated the earlier results. These experiments demonstrate a substantial improvement in plasma confinement--significant progress toward the goal of producing a fusion reaction-- and a journal article on the results is planned. ___MIT__via__NextEnergy

MIT's LDX fusion approach confines plasmas by a more natural and controllable "pulling flux" as opposed to the "pushing flux" being attempted by Tokamak approaches such as ITER.

Novel approaches to fusion such as LDX and other new approaches to fusion described by Brian Westenhaus and Brian Wang, may very well break the tape ahead of much more expensive approaches such as ITER.

Technological breakthroughs in superconducters, nanotech materials, and optical-electronic process controls should allow the materials and infrastructural costs for alternative fusion approaches to drop considerably, over time.



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