Lithium, the silvery metal that powers smart phones and helps treat bipolar disorders, could also play a significant role in the worldwide effort to harvest on Earth the safe, clean and virtually limitless fusion energy that powers the sun and stars.
Temperatures hotter than the center of the sun. Magnetic fields hundreds of thousands of times stronger than the earth’s. Neutrons energetic enough to change the structure of a material entirely.
The techniques Theodore Biewer and his colleagues are using to measure whether plasma has the right conditions to create fusion have been around awhile.
A tiny vial of gray powder produced at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the backbone of a new experiment to study the intense magnetic fields created in nuclear collisions.
When it’s up and running, the ITER fusion reactor will be very big and very hot, with more than 800 cubic meters of hydrogen plasma reaching 170 million degrees centigrade. The systems that fuel and control it, on the other hand, will be small and very cold. Pellets of frozen gas will be shot int...