Bystroushaak's blog / English section / Technological marvels / The beauty of a fusion reactor

The beauty of a fusion reactor

I really love this picture of the Wendelstein 7-X experimental fusion reactor. Unlike ITER, this is a different, not so common kind of fusion reactor called stellarator. It is used to evaluate main components for future fusion power plants. It was built in Germany after decades of computer simulations and optimizations, which allowed more effective "twisted" design of the plasma channel.

(Source: Wibbly-wobbly magnetic fusion stuff: The return of the stellarator)

Just look at the damn thing. You cannot hold it in your memory in its entirety. It is so complex, that it literally can't be fully imagined without computers. All the angles and all the ports.

And the magnets! At first, I thought they were fairly simple:

(Source: Wibbly-wobbly magnetic fusion stuff: The return of the stellarator)

There is a pattern to it, right? Just coils looping around. But no, that's just some of them. Others are twisted beyond anything describable by words:

(Source: What is a Stellarator?)

It is literally an inhumane design, created by software optimizations and simulations over more than twenty years of research, supercomputer simulation and optimization.

I like marvelling at the picture and trying to imagine it running;

At first, just the magnets. They are like strings in music. Imagine fifty non-planar and twenty planar superconducting magnetic coils lightning up, calibrating the power of their twisted magnetic fields with exact precision. Imagine fifty players on strings and twenty on violin cellos just calibrating their tools.

(Source: Confirmation of the topology of the Wendelstein 7-X magnetic field to better than 1:100,000)

In your mind, add layers with wires, tubes, sensors, shielding and casing. Whole orchestra building.


Different measuring apparatus performing exact measurements a hundred of thousand times every second. Hundreds of sensors, power readings and graphs to correlate. That's the audience listening to synchronized music, which is suddenly appearing out of chaos.

(Sources: 1, 2, 3)

Then the deep sounds of the plasma injectors. And the software of control algorithm, listening to the music, correlating power readings and sensor values and conducting all players on the strings like the conductor of an orchestra. Making sure all the different parts work smoothly together like it is not even machinery, like it is a concerto of systems and subsystems playing wonderful music together; music of advanced engineering. Can you hear it?

(Source: Performance and properties of the first plasmas of Wendelstein 7-X)

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