The Incredible Engineering of the Wendelstein 7-X

For decades, scientists have been studying and designing fusion reactors in hopes of essentially solving the world’s energy issues. In short, a fusion reactor essentially creates a tiny, artificial sun that is used for giving off a large amount of energy that we can harness. The sun is actually a natural fusion reactor, where two lighter atomic nuclei fuse to form a heavier nucleus.

Engineers in Greifswald, Germany, have designed and tested a fusion reactor called the Wendelstein 7-X. The shape that it’s in gives it the classification of a stellarator.

Stellarator
http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/nuclear-fusion-reactor/

It’s hard to make out the complex swerving and looping the Wendelstein 7-X has, but the picture below shows it well. The Tokamak on the left was the previous design that was far less efficient. With the new design, the Wendelstein 7-X was able to heat helium to 1 million Kelvin.

Tokamak vs. Stellarator
http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21676752-research-fusion-has-gone-down-blind-alley-means-escape-may-now-be

For me, looking at the picture of the Wendelstein 7-X gives me a great appreciation for what people can achieve. The amount of math that had to go into designing and testing this reactor is incredible and just thinking about it makes my head hurt, with all of the thousands of little parts that have a specific purpose in a very complex design.

This technology is still supposed to be decades away from being usable at any grand scale still, unfortunately. Though we should still give the appreciation to the people who made this almost impossible machine actually work.

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