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Chapter 517: Explosion of the Plasma Physics Community
Translator: Henyee Translations Editor: Henyee Translations
The researchers at the STAR Stellarator Research Inst.i.tute spent around three days wrangling the experimental data.
At the same time, Lu Zhou, who was responsible for summarizing the data, finished writing the relevant thesis. With more than thirty authors named on this thesis, Lu Zhou finally submitted it to the Science journal editorial department.
Just after he finished submitting the thesis, his phone began to ring.
Lu Zhou picked up the phone. When he saw that it was Academician Pan who was calling him, he answered the call.
The second the call connected, he heard laughter from the other end of the phone.
“Kid, you’re not bad at all! You’re really giving Old Zhou a headache with this one. He’s probably wondering how he’s going to take back his words.”
Lu Zhou was leaning against his office chair as he made a careless expression.
He’s the one that is coming after me, it’s not like I did anything wrong.
Even if I say my comeback wasn’t intentional, I’m sure not a lot of people will believe me.
Academician Pan paused for a second before he said in a more serious tone, “Honestly, when I heard that your second experiment target was thirty minutes, I was more than astonished. I never expected to have actually underestimated your abilities. I’m sure the Germans also didn’t expect their garbage WEGA machine to perform this well.”
Even though the run-time was only doubled, this type of thing couldn’t be compared linearly.
It was no exaggeration to say that this achievement alone would put them miles ahead of the world in terms of controllable nuclear fusion research.
“What’s next? What’s your next plan?”
Lu Zhou smiled. “Next time, I plan on taking this seriously.”
There was a subtle change in Academician Pan’s facial expression as he spoke in disbelief.
Lu Zhou, while holding the phone, nodded.
When Academician Pan heard Lu Zhou’s decisive answer through the phone, he took a deep breath. He was completely shocked.
Even though the experimental reactor sounded similar to the demonstration reactor, they were two completely different things.
The former was only able to achieve the most basic experimental set up for plasma experiments, while the latter was a demonstration reaction device that required a series of technical requirements such as plasma confinement, fusion reaction, and the appropriate power output.
It came as a surprise to no one that for a long time, this demonstration reactor became China and the world’s controllable nuclear fusion target project.
It wasn’t an exaggeration to say that the former was child’s play compared to the latter.
Even though controllable nuclear fusion research experiments had been going on for more than half a century and various experimental reactors had emerged throughout the world, but whether it was the Princeton Inst.i.tute for Plasma Physics or the Max Planck Inst.i.tute for Plasma Physics, there wasn’t a single inst.i.tution on earth that could create a nuclear fusion demonstration reactor.
And the plan for building a demonstration reactor had always been on the timelines of various large research inst.i.tutes.
Academician Pan hesitated for a bit before asking in an uncertain tone, “Isn’t it a bit too early to start building a demonstration reactor?”
Even though a one-hour high-density plasma magnetic confinement time was worthy of celebration, it was still quite ambitious to start building a demonstration reactor now.
As far as Academician Pan was concerned, there were many major issues that were unsolved.
When he heard how confident Lu Zhou was, he couldn’t help but worry if Lu Zhou was becoming too arrogant.
Lu Zhou smiled when he heard Academician Pan’s question.
“It’s not too early. There are a lot of things we can do while researching. We don’t have to wait until everything is ready. Not to mention, the most important superconducting magnet and control scheme is already solved. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until anti-radiation materials for the first wall is invented. As long as the conditions are matched, I have an 80% certainty of building this demonstration reactor.”
Lu Zhou wanted to first build the components for the reactor, such as the plasma track, external field coil, water-cooled divertor, etc. For the problems that were impossible to solve from an engineering perspective, such as the first wall material, he would have to wait until the theory was solved. After that, he could invent and implement the material.
However, the scale of a demonstration reactor was completely different from the experimental reactor, and they were on a different order of magnitude.
And his research funding was running low.
When Lu Zhou thought about this, he subconsciously looked at the fountain pen laying on the corner of his table.
Looks like I’ll have to write some letters again.
For most people, submitting a thesis to top journals such as Science and Nature wasn’t an easy task. However, this wasn’t difficult for Lu Zhou at all.
Even taking out the fact that he was a n.o.bel Prize winner and had a good reputation in academia, just from his past cooperation with the Science editorial department and the power behind the words “nuclear fusion” alone was enough for the editorial department to take his thesis seriously.
The data didn’t have any problems, and Lu Zhou didn’t have to wait long before his thesis was quickly reviewed and published in the latest issue of Science.
After the publication of the thesis, the people finally learned about the miracle that happened on the STAR machine. The entire plasma physics community exploded.
How long was one hour?
Just a year ago, various countries were using seconds as a measurement for their tokamak run-time.
The results of this thesis were leaps and bounds beyond any other national research inst.i.tutes.
However, if one used a pulse igniter, one wouldn’t need such a long confinement time. But the shock that came with this one-hour achievement was still able to surprise all of the scholars that were paying attention to this machine.
Not only in academia, but the success of the STAR machine also aroused the general public’s attention, which led to a lot of heated discussions on the internet.
Some people pressed the like b.u.t.ton as they thought it was a huge step toward the future.
Some other people expressed their concerns when they thought humans were moving closer and closer to their own extinction.
While some people didn’t care at all.
After all, it wasn’t their first time seeing news about controllable fusion energy. Twenty years ago, someone said that controllable nuclear fusion energy would be achievable in twenty years at the latest. However, no one was able to fulfill that original promise.
But in any case, for a major scientific breakthrough like this, the CTV stood on the political side and gave widespread coverage of the news.
In its latest news broadcast, CTV allocated a specific segment for a comprehensive report on this matter.
“A few days ago, the Jinling STAR Stellarator Research Inst.i.tute published a paper in Science, which revealed the details of their latest controllable nuclear fusion experiment.
“In that experiment, Chinese n.o.bel Prize laureate Professor Lu Zhou and his research team were able to successfully achieve a one-hour plasma confinement run-time.
“According to experts within the industry, this technological breakthrough is expected to open a new chapter for controllable nuclear fusion research…”
As usual, the CTV news segment cited a foreign media interview.
Stanford Professor Burton Richter, 1976 n.o.bel Prize laureate and Tri Alpha consultant, was sitting in front of the camera. He was asked by a CBS reporter on his opinion regarding the STAR machine, in which he described how astonished he was.
“… When my colleague told me that someone was able to achieve a one-hour magnetic confinement runtime, I first thought it was a ridiculous joke. That was until he found the paper in the latest Science issue and presented it in front of me.
“Even now, my heart is still full of amazement. Especially when I heard that the machine was a modified version of the retired WEGA machine, that just added to the surprise even more.
“There was no way WEGA could achieve something like this when even the Wendelstein 7-X couldn’t.
“In my opinion, China is at the forefront of controllable nuclear fusion research. If the most important superconducting material and plasma control scheme is solved, then they only have to solve the first wall plasma anti-radiation material problem before they could build a real demonstration fusion reactor. After all, converting heat energy into electrical energy wasn’t a difficult problem in and of itself.”
Burton Richter had a mixture of emotions on his face.
“We’ve been leading the controllable nuclear fusion field for half a century, but it’s very likely that we’ll lose at the finishing line. I’m not joking, the Department of Energy should take this matter seriously…”
Regardless of whether or not the American Department of Energy took this matter seriously, the STAR machine attracted attention from many high ranking Chinese government officials.
The paper that was published in Science pushed the word “controllable nuclear fusion” to the cusp of global media coverage. At the same time, a hand-written letter from Lu Zhou appeared on Mr. President’s office.
This letter triggered a lot of sensitive nerves…