Scientists at KSTAR (Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research) in South Korea have successfully generated the first plasmas in the core of their new Tokamak, utilizing Air Liquide’s helium liquefaction technology.
The National Fusion Research Institute (NFRI) in South Korea has developed a Tokamak, an ultra-sophisticated physics-based instrument with the purpose to generate plasmas that make possible the conditions required for controlled nuclear fusion of atoms.
This type of reaction, which also occurs in the sun, releases a large amount of energy that can be converted into electrical energy. Much like the goings-on at CERN’s LHC, the operation is highly scientific and also requires similar superconducting magnet-cooling technology as that used by the LHC.
Cooling using helium
In order to obtain the very powerful electromagnetic fields necessary for the confinement of the physical reaction, superconducting magnets must be used, which only function at extremely low temperatures.
Liquid helium enables such temperatures to be maintained within the Tokamak and this is where Air Liquide gets involved.
Air Liquide, a partner in the KSTAR project in South Korea since 2005, designed and built the Tokamak’s system of helium liquefaction and distribution, in operation since the beginning of this year. This incorporates a refrigerator, designed to cool the superconducting magnets of the experimental reactor to a temperature of -269°C, close to absolute zero.
Air Liquide’s expertise in mastering ultra low temperatures, and its teams’ experience in developing innovative technologies, enables the group to cooperate in numerous scientific projects relating to particle physics and the applications of superconductivity.
Collaboration with CERN on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is just one such example.
François Darchis, a member of the Executive Committee of the Air Liquide Group and in charge of Advanced Technologies, commented, “We are delighted about KSTAR’s first successes, in which we are proud to be involved. They represent an important step towards the ITER international experimental reactor, to which our teams will be able to contribute their expertise.”
“This success shows the capacity of the Air Liquide Group to respond to major technological challenges and to contribute towards developing future energy solutions.”
Satisfying the energy challenge
Mastering nuclear fusion offers the potential to produce electrical energy differently, contributing to the challenge of satisfying increasing worldwide energy requirements.
The recent success of KSTAR in South Korea concludes the installation and start-up phase of the unique technical apparatus.
Doing so marks a significant milestone in the development of the project which, combined with other international programmes, contributes to improving the knowledge and mastery of fusion reactions, designed to generate electrical energy.