USA funding new cooperation projects at Wendelstein 7-X

From Auburn, Los Alamos, Madison, Oak Ridge, Princeton and Wisconsin to Greifswald

May 08, 2015

Participation of the USA in the Wendelstein 7-X fusion project at Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Greifswald is to be continued. The US Department of Energy had already made a financial contribution to construction of the device. From 2015 till 2017 US scientists will now also be involved in the research on Wendelstein 7-X with about four million dollars annually.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) had already taken part in the construction of Wendelstein 7-X to the extent of 7.5 million dollars (IPP Information 8/2011). This financial support enabled scientists from the research institutes in Princeton, Oak Ridge and Los Alamos to contribute with auxiliary magnet coils, measuring apparatus and development work to equipping Germany’s fusion device. An agreement on longer-term cooperation was signed in June last year by the US Department of Energy and IPP. Wendelstein 7-X is to go into operation this year.

The renewed funding now approved by DOE enables US universities to take an active role in the research programme of Wendelstein 7-X during the next three years: scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will measure the turbulence in the plasma by various methods; scientists from the universities at Wisconsin and Auburn will be concerned with the properties of the plasma edge. Finally, studies on a probe for measuring electric fields in the plasma will be conducted by a private research company, Xantho Technologies, in Madison. The US Department of Energy will provide these projects with a total of 2.7 million dollars for personnel, equipment and research sojourns at Greifswald.

Another 3.1 million dollars annually will fund the research work done by the three national research centres at Princeton, Oak Ridge and Los Alamos on Wendelstein 7-X, including construction and operation of an X-ray spectrometer, development of a pellet injector that injects tiny frozen hydrogen pellets to refuel the plasma, and operation of the five large auxiliary coils supplied by the US. These are installed on the outside of the device to assist in precise setting of the magnetic fields at the plasma edge.

About ten US scientists will be delegated to Wendelstein 7-X for up to one year to do research for these tasks. By 2017 funding of the German-American Wendelstein cooperation will come to about 12 million dollars. Including the funds already gone into construction of the device, this makes a total of 20 million dollars. Project head Professor Dr. Thomas Klinger is very pleased. “Alongside the direct support, theses close ties with high-grade US universities and research establishments open up numerous exchange possibilities, especially for young scientists.”

On completion, Wendelstein 7-X will be the world’s largest and most modern fusion device of the stellarator type. Its magnetic field will make continuous operation possible in a simple way. The aim of world-wide fusion research is to develop a power plant that, like the sun, derives energy from fusion of hydrogen nuclei. To do this, one has to succeed in confining the fuel, viz. an extremely low-density hydrogen gas, called plasma, in a magnetic field cage with almost no wall contact and then heating it to ignition temperature exceeding 100 million degrees.

Isabella Milch

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