Germany has fired up a potentially revolutionary fusion reactor

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Mankind’s obsession with energy has led to its demise in countless fictional stories, and whether it be the irreversible destruction of our environment, or wars fought over limited resources, an energy-related demise has become a very real possibility. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as there are countless individuals and organizations working to change things for the better, some through politics, and others through technology. Having chosen the latter approach, a group of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Germany fired up a potentially revolutionary machine known as the Wendelstein 7-X, which could provide the world with a clean and virtually-limitless supply of energy. 

On Thursday, the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics fired up a monster machine that it hopes will change the world. The machine is called the Wendelstein 7-X, or W7-X for short. It’s a type of nuclear-fusion machine called a stellarator and is the largest, most sophisticated of its kind. Nuclear fusion could prove to be a clean, inexhaustible energy source. But humans are still a ways from successfully building a reactor that could power a small town, let alone entire cities. But now, we’re one step closer. On Thursday, the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics tweeted out a beautiful image of the machine’s first plasma (shown below) — a gas in which all the electrons have been stripped from their atoms, a task that requires tremendous amounts of energy and is critical to achieving nuclear fusion. The key to a successful nuclear-fusion reactor of any kind is to generate, confine, and control plasma. This is the first confirmation that the machine is performing as planned. Last year, after 1.1 million construction hours, the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics completed construction of the $1.1 billion W7-X.

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