This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – brightrecruits.com can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today

Blog

Weird, but it might just work

exhibition.jpg
Weird stuff: a model of the Wendelstein 7-X outer magnet

By Matin Durrani

It’s amazing who you can meet at a conference.

At a sumptuous four-course dinner at Prague’s Kaiserstenjsky Palac last night – held as part of Europe’s Research Connection conference — I sat next to an Italian architect called Pietro Laureano, who researches the ancient tradition of digging tunnels in the Saraha desert.

Sounds a bit mad, but as he explained to me through mouthfuls of “saffron risotto with smoked salmon and red parmesan pancakes”, the water condenses underground, creating pools from which you can drink or use to irrigate crops. He’s funded by UNESCO and has written a book all about it.

On my right was another Italian architect and anthropologist, who has written, among other things, a book on the history of pasta. He reckons that pasta was never a tradiational Italian dish but has only became so after being eaten by Italians who left for new lives in other countries. Pasta came to embody what it meant to be Italian, apparently.

Anyway, back to physics.

Out in the exhibition at the conference, I caught up with physicists from a couple of projects we’ve been following on Physics World over the last few years. One is ASPERA – a European group seeking to improve the continent’s work in astroparticle physics.

As Thomas Berghöfer from the DESY lab in Hamburg explained, they’ve been funded through cash from the European Commission to form what is known in the jargon as a European Research Area Network (ERA-NET). With seven big new facilities on the drawing board, it’s a concrete example of what the European Research Area is all about – enhancing Europe’s strengths in science through co-ordinated action.

Meanwhile, Patrizio Antici was on hand to talk about Europe’s plans for a European Light Infrastructure – a planned exawatt laser that would be a thousand times more powerful than Megajoule in France or the National Ignition Facility in the US. (Memo to Physics World’s news editor: this is something we need to keep readers updated on.)

I also bumped into Chris Ibbott, a mechanical engineer who, working closely with physicists, helped to design one part of the ITER fusion reactor that’s currently being built in France. In front of a scale-model of the experiment, he explained just how complex this facility will be, not least trying to keep the plasma stable.

That’s why the Wendelstein 7-X reactor in Greifswald, Germany, is interesting: it can keep a plasma stable without needing a central solenoid. The snag is it’s got an outer magnet bent into a really weird shape, as the model in the photo above shows.

Like digging water-gathering tunnels in the Sahara or trying to get 27 separate European nations to collaborate, the Wendelstein 7-X reactor seems weird, but it might just work.

This entry was posted in EU Research Connections 2009. Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

5 comments

  1. Ender

    It may be worth noting that, when most countries had dropped their stellerator programmes back in the 1970′s, the people at the Max Planck Institute für Plasmaphysik showed that using novel technology and superb engineering the concept could be brought back to life. That was the origin of such “artistic” coils. What they showed was that the essential problems didn’t lie in the physics, but in the engineering.

  2. It would be nice if you covered some of the smaller fusion experiments that show very good near term prospects (10 years or less). Here is one:
    Bussard’s IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained
    Why hasn’t Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

  3. Greg-Biering

    Hey, ok, I get it, I guess – but does this really work?

  4. That’s definitely an impressive design and an interesting concept. I wonder how they came up with shape? Is there any more information about 7-X reactor available online?
    Thanks!

  5. I don’t think the Wendelstein 7-X reactor seems weird at all. I am actually looking at ways of breaking down magnetic frequencies and light frequencies, creating a marriage of dual light and magnetic frequencies. The idea is to have both run on a single frequency. Probably sounds more strange than the 7-X huh? Do you have anything related to such studies?
    The goal would be to create a laser which carries magnetic properties pos + one 1 frequency neg – on another.

Leave a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Guidelines

  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="http://www.google.com">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="http://iop.org/">IOP</blockquote>
IOP
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="http://www.worldwildlife.org/who/index.html">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text
WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux