The World of Friendly Fusion

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

I am super excited to share this post with you! As promised in my last post, we'll look at a success story I was lucky enough to cover recently. It's about clean fusion energy. The goal hereby is to produce and widely distribute clean and affordable energy in a safe way. I will try to explain the concept and idea behind this approach.

Taking A Close Look At The Stars

Engineers are tackling one of the greatest scientific undertakings: they are trying to harness the process by which the stars release energy. Stars release vast quantities of energy through the fusion of hydrogens atoms in plasma. There are different companies that turn to the sun and stars when on the quest for new ways to produce energy. Therefore, they are building powerful fusion devices that one day should create sustainable energy. A safe, efficient, reliable and clean energy source that could potentially save our planet. In the following video the question was asked: How Close Are We to Fusion Energy?

There are different approaches based on the idea and research from the international ITER program. They all have one thing still to figure out: How to generate more energy than initially put in.

It's All About Q

None of the fusion energy approaches up to this day produce more electricity than they consume. However, there are engineers and scientists getting closer and closer to solving this issue. One of the companies advancing fusion research is TAE Technologies in California. Their approach is called proprietary beam-driven FRC, combining proven scientific and technological concepts of particle accelerators (such as CERN) with the plasma physics approach called field-reversed configuration (FRC).

Their innovative field-reversed configuration (FRC) plasma generator called Norman is used to create a controlled fusion reaction. This reaction happens inside the confinement chamber by shooting two FRCs at supersonic speed from either end of the chamber towards each other, thus colliding and merging into one. In doing so, they transform kinetic energy, which is the energy that an object contains due to its movement and corresponds to the work that has to be done to move the object from rest to momentary movement, into thermal energy (generally speaking: heat). They then apply neutral beams to increase the performance and stability of the plasma inside the confinement chamber.

These beams are needed to address a well-known challenge of fusion: keeping the plasma well centered and away from the walls. Why? We need it stable for a certain time for the plasma to release sufficient amounts of harvestable fusion energy. But how is this related to real-time simulation?

Norman, Model-Based Design & Real-Time Simulation

The core functionality of this fusion device, the overall acquisition, and the control system setup of the Norman, including implementation, is based on model-based design and real-time simulation and testing. It enabled scientists and engineers to transition from model-based designs to hardware, thereby utilizing multi-gigabit transceivers and a high-bandwidth, low latency communication protocol (if communication protocol doesn't ring a bell, check out this blog post).

In my next blog post, I will go into further detail about the Norman and tackle a very special algorithm: the Optometrist Algorithm. Stay tuned, cute, and curious!

Meanwhile, you'd like to check out the following links:

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