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Chapter 515: Not Just Thirty Minutes
Translator: Henyee Translations Editor: Henyee Translations
There was a controllable nuclear fusion program going on in the CTV Road Of Science studio.
“Welcome everyone to Road Of Science, I am your host, Cheng Nan.
“We always see controllable nuclear fusion in the world of science fiction film and television works. It seems that all of our future energy fantasies are locked up in the words ‘controllable nuclear fusion’…
“The theme of today’s program is the future energy source that we are all fascinated with— controllable nuclear fusion.
“For this, we invited the director of the China International Nuclear Fusion Energy Program Execution Center and the chief engineer, Academician Zhou Chengfu, from the Southwestern Inst.i.tute of Physics to explain the past and present of controllable nuclear fusion… Everyone, let’s welcome them!”
Clap clap clap!
The audience in the crowd was encouraged by the host to give a round of applause.
Zhou Chengfu walked out from the backstage and onto the studio stage. With his head full of white hair, he nodded and gently smiled toward the live audience. He then sat on the sofa.
He had been attending meetings in Beijing over the past few days. He received an appearance invitation from Road Of Science. Since he wasn’t busy, he decided to head on over to the studio.
Even though they said that scientists were different than actors and that scientists didn’t need publicity, however, for researchers like him that were engaged in futuristic disciplines, it was still necessary for them to make a certain amount of media appearances.
After all, scientists like him were spending a lot of money on scientific research funding. The public deserved to know what the money was being used on and what the research results could do to change their lives.
“Some of you might have heard that a few months ago, the STAR stellarator in Jin Ling City successfully completed its first experiment. Including this stellarator, the magnetic confinement fusion devices such as HT-7 and the EAST tokamak as well as inertial confinement fusion machines like the SG-III and the newly proposed reversed-field pinch devices, our country’s researchers are involved in basically all of the possible technical routes for controllable nuclear fusion. We are at the forefront of the world.
“Before the STAR machine, our country’s research toward the stellarator was basically non-existent. I want to ask Academician Zhou, what do you think about our country’s first stellarator machine?”
When Zhou Chengfu heard this question, he smiled and replied humbly, “Saying it’s the first in the country is a bit exaggerated. After all, tritium is very expensive. Before solving the problems of heavy water and plasma irradiation damage on the first wall material, we usually experiment with hydrogen.”
The host: “Are you familiar with the STAR machine?”
Zhou Chengfu smiled and said, “I don’t know a lot, but I know enough.”
The host: “Then can you explain to us the special characteristics of the STAR machine?”
Zhou Chengfu smirked when he heard this question, and he opened his mouth and said, “In terms of its special characteristics, it’s just like you said, it’s probably the first real stellarator in the country.
“You guys might not have heard of its origin. However, I can tell you that this is Germany’s WEGA device. This machine was retired back in around 2013 and was stored in Frankfurt ever since. That was until when Professor Lu went to Germany for an academic exchange, and he had his eyes set on this machine. Therefore, he persuaded the two countries and spent around €500 million in research funding to buy this machine from the Germans.”
The host looked astonished, he said, “€500 million? That’s almost 4 billion yuan… Is controllable nuclear fusion this expensive?”
The live audience members were also astounded.
4 billion yuan!
Their poverty limited their imagination. They could never imagine that research would cost this much money.
Zhou Chengfu smiled and didn’t react at all to this large number.
“It’s all relative. It’s quite a bit compared to mathematics research funding. But if you compare it to the s.p.a.ce station or the hadron collider, it’s slightly cheaper.”
Of course, it was more than just “slightly” cheaper.
The host: “Then do you think the resurrected STAR machine can replicate the 30-minute mark of Wendelstein 7-X?”
Zhou Chengfu didn’t seem to like the word “resurrected”, so he subconsciously frowned. However, he realized he was taping a show, so his eyebrows relaxed again.
“30 minutes?” Zhou Chengfu smiled and shook his head. “It’d be great if they could run the machine for 2 minutes.”Read the next chapter on our vipnovel.com
Surprised, the host looked at Zhou Chengfu as he asked, “Are you not optimistic about the STAR machine?”
When Zhou Chengfu heard this question, he said, “It’s not a matter of whether or not I’m optimistic about it. The reason why Wendelstein 7-X was able to maintain a 30-minute plasma confinement time was due to the special external field coil design and the most important factor; the water-cooled divertor.
“Even though WEGA also has this water-cooled divertor, their divertor was a 20-year-old tech. It’s a lot worse than the current Wendelstein 7-X divertor. If the STAR stellarator wants to replicate Wendelstein 7-X’s success, then they would have to innovate on the water-cooled divertor. However, they obviously didn’t do this.”
He wasn’t bulls.h.i.tting. The reason why the Wendelstein was able to achieve the 30-minute mark was mainly due to the water-cooled divertor. At least, that was what the Germans thought.
And the newest water-cooled divertor obviously wasn’t installed on the WEGA machine.
Even if one disregarded these factors, just judging from that science review article that came out attacking them two months ago, the STAR Stellarator Research Inst.i.tute hadn’t done anything in return.
Right now Zhou Chengfu was confident that Lu Zhou wanted to fight him, but the STAR machine simply couldn’t do anything.
Therefore, he had no pressure saying this on television.
“… Right now, the mainstream international controllable nuclear fusion research is still the tokamak. Then, it’s the inertial confinement fusion device as well as the reversed-field pinch device you just mentioned.
“Theoretically, all of these technical routes are possible. We just have to solve all of the problems a certain technical route faces, and the final destination will be the fusion energy that we all desperately want. It’s just like a truck and a sedan, as long as they have four wheels, they can drive on the highway.”
The audience was amused by this a.n.a.logy, and they were all grinning.
Zhou Chengfu paused for a second and continued, “The stellarator is too difficult from an engineering perspective. In contrast, the tokamak is much more succinct, and it has a relatively low engineering difficulty.
“We don’t have to attempt every single technical route. Rather than trying every possibility, it’d be better to focus our limited resources on a few optimal routes.
“Instead of carelessly attempting random technical routes, this is the logical way to do research!”
After the interview finished, the sound of applause resonated in Zhou Chengfu’s head. He left the studio and couldn’t even describe how happy he was feeling.
Even though this kind of science shows for the public didn’t have a lot of purposes, whenever he thought about that young man who ignored him, he couldn’t help but feel relieved.
Suddenly, his phone in his pocket began to ring.
He took out his phone and saw Jiang Liang was calling, so he picked up the call and put his phone against his ear.
“Director! Director Zhou!”
“What?” Zhou Chengfu heard how fl.u.s.tered Jiang Liang was, so he furrowed his eyebrows.
“The STAR research inst.i.tute!”
Zhou Chengfu said impatiently, “Speak in full sentences, what happened with the STAR research inst.i.tute?”
“Yesterday, they restarted their experiment!”
Zhou Chengfu’s heart dropped to his stomach when he heard this, and he immediately asked, “They restarted their experiment? How come I didn’t hear anything about this? Tell me, how was their experiment? Did they achieve the 30 minutes of run time?”
Jiang Liang was being fired with questions, and he had a bitter smile on his face.
“Not thirty minutes…”
When Zhou Chengfu heard it wasn’t thirty minutes, he sighed in relief.
However, before he could feel relieved, something else happened.
Jiang Liang, who was still on the other end of the telephone, spoke bitterly in disbelief.
“… I saw on Jinling Daily that they achieved one hour of magnetic confinement time…”