Tag Archives: lyman spitzer

The Past is Prologue?

It’s always interesting to see what fusion research looked like in the early days….

The Stellarator, ca. 1953

The Stellarator, ca. 1953

…if for no other reason than because it affords some insight into just why, as Richard Hull (among others) is so fond of saying, “Fusion is 20 years in the future and always will be…”

It is also intriguing to see the subject of fusion being picked up among the tech cognoscenti, as in this article that appeared recently on the popular tech-geared site Gizmodo, which describes Lyman Spitzer’s “Stellarator” – one of the earliest magnetic confinement schemes:

Virtually all plasma physics research throughout the 1950s and 1960s occurred on Stellarators. The Model C, above, was the largest of these devices. … It entered service in 1962 and immediately blew the doors off of the earlier figure-8 design. It incorporated a pair of major innovations—the divertor, which sucked unwanted waste particles out of the stream without disrupting the confinement field, and ICRH that uses radio waves to force the ions to spin around the center axis of the field the same way the wire helix of the earlier models wound around the central core of their support matrix—mitigated earlier models’ issues with plasma loss.

Well, certainly no jargon there!

The Stellarator was an early attempt at “magnetic confinement” of a fusion reaction – in other words, marshalling titanic external forces in the service of confining a plasma and squeezing ions together.  It sounds reasonable enough, but magnetic confinement was once likened to “trying to contain a scoop of jello with rubber bands.”

It strikes me that all that “jargon” is the scientific description of how you keep the jello from escaping.