The Australian National University (ANU) has upgraded its Australian Plasma Fusion Research Facility (APFRF) so it can better harness the fusion energy process that powers the sun and stars.
Fusion energy is the collision of hydrogen nuclei into helium. ANU said this kind of energy could provide millions of years of greenhouse gas-free, safe, base-load power.
The facility includes the newly upgraded H-1 Heliac, which can heat fusion experiments to temperatures hotter than the core of the sun.
“The H-1 experiment uses strong magnetic fields to confine the hot fuel inside a doughnut-shaped vessel,” ANU said in a statement.
ITER is the next step of the fusion energy experiment at the facility, and is currently being built in Saint Paul-lez-Durance, France by about 850 scientists and other professionals all over the world.
The ITER machine is being designed to produce 10 times the power it consumes. For example, it could produce 500 MW of fusion power from 50 MW of input power.
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A magnetised plasma interaction device (MagPIE) will also be used in the facility to help determine which materials can endure extreme temperatures from fusion plasma.
“Choice of materials for use in ITER is an active research area, to which MagPIE is already contributing, in collaboration with ANSTO [Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation], who part-funded the project,” said Dr Adi Paterson, CEO of ANSTO.
Other upgrades to the facility include diagnostic automation, installation of fast cameras and photomultiplier arrays, and installation of new RF antennas.
The Federal Government has allocated $7.9 million in funding the research facility, as part of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) initiative.