Cooperation on fusion energy
When the new Wendelstein 7-X facility for researching nuclear fusion as a future energy source becomes operational in 2014, it will also incorporate high-precision work and scientific expertise from Poland.
Although scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) will play a leading role in the construction of the research facility in Greifswald, quite a few partners will also participate. After the USA, Poland will provide the largest contribution through two cooperative projects. The close of 2012 saw completion of a key six-year project: superconduction technology experts from the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Cracow connected the 50 superconducting electromagnets – the technical centrepiece of the facility – together in a ring. Around 45 technicians and engineers assembled 121 superconductors up to 14 m long, as well as 240 connectors and 400 supports that had been manufactured at the Forschungszentrum Jülich. When the research facility is operational, current flows through the ring and creates a magnetic cage. This magnetic cage - when hydrogen nuclei are to ignite the fire of fusion and melt into helium nuclei at 100 million degrees Celsius in a future power plant – is prerequisite for containing the plasma to maintain stable, continuous energy production.
After the departure of the technical staff from Cracow, cooperative efforts will continue with the National Centre for Nuclear Research in Swierk, Poland: The accelerator experts there will take care of production of components for neutral particle heating at Wendelstein 7-X. High-speed particles will be fired into the plasma to help heat it. Manufacturing orders have already been placed with Polish and other European industrial companies.
Around two-thirds of the costs for both projects are being carried by the Polish Ministry of Science, which made available a total of 6.5 million euros and wants to build its fusion research programme around Wendelstein 7-X. In addition, IPP is funding plasma diagnostics in the form of cooperative projects with universities in Warsaw and Opole. In future, Polish scientists will also carry out research projects directly at Wendelstein 7-X.