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Fusion ‘pretzel’ fires up first hydrogen plasma

Image: Wendelstein 7-X
The first hydrogen plasma lights up the interior of the Wendelstein 7-X fusion device. (Credit: IPP)

Hydrogen plasma was produced for the first time on Feb. 3 in Germany’s Wendelstein 7-X fusion device, which has been called the “reactor designed in hell” as well as the“pretzel that could save Planet Earth.”

The Wendelstein 7-X was built at the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics in Greifswald at a cost of €1 billion ($1.1 billion). The device, known as a stellarator, is built to contain superheated plasma inside a magnetic chamber with a tangled, pretzel-like configuration.

Physicists at the institute are hoping that the crazy-looking design will keep the plasma stable for extended periods within the magnetic field. That’s been an issue for plasma chambers with a more typical doughnut-like design, which are called tokamaks.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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