One of the big technical challenges to magnetic nuclear fusion is finding materials that can withstand the super high temperatures--millions of degrees Celsius--and magnetic fields required for a reaction. Pictured here is a device to test the effect of plasma on different materials. The plasma is the pink beam shining on a circular metal test surface.
Plasma is a state of matter which happens at high temperatures--this plasma was created at 50,000 degrees Celsius--where electrons break off from an atom's nucleus. To get nuclear fusion, MIT and other researchers need to create plasma of two hydrogen isotopes (heavier versions of hydrogen) and heat the vessel so that fusion occurs. The vessel has powerful magnetic fields to confine plasma and keep it away from the vessel walls, but particles and heat leak out. That's one reason that materials science and testing is important to the future of fusion.
June 29, 2011 8:42 AM PDT
Photo by: Martin LaMonica/CNET
| Caption by: Martin LaMonica
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