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IPFS News Link • Energy

Nuclear fusion breakthrough breathes life into the overlooked Z-pinch approach

•, Nick Lavars

Tokamak reactors and fusion stellarators are a couple of the experimental devices used in pursuit of these lofty goals, but scientists at the University of Washington (UW) are taking a far less-frequented route known as a Z-pinch, with the early signs pointing to a cheaper and more efficient path forward.

In order to mimic the conditions inside the Sun, where hydrogen atoms smash together to form helium atoms and release gargantuan amounts of energy with no harmful by-products, we need a whole lot of heat and a whole lot of pressure.

Forming a stream of plasma and holding it in place long enough for these nuclear reactions to occur, either in a twisted loop or a neat donut shape, are the techniques employed by devices like Germany's wonky Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor and China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak. But this approach has its drawbacks, relating to the magnetic coils needed to suspend the ring of plasma, as study author Uri Shumlak explains to New Atlas.