deglr6328 writes "In light of recent, somewhat disappointing news in the world of nuclear fusion research, it is worth noting that there are still reasons to keep up hope that some breakthroughs are yet to be made. At 12:53 pm on the 13th. of this month the Levitated Dipole Experiment achieved its first plasma. The Levitated Dipole Experiment(LDX), built at MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center as a joint project of Columbia University and MIT, is a magnetic confinement fusion research device, that unlike all previous stellarator, reverse-field pinch and tokamak like experiments, uses a superconducting levitated torus to confine its plasma. The LDX's achievement of first plasma is, in a way, about 17 years in the making even though it has only been in construction since 1999. The concept for LDX was first considered by Akira Hasegawa as he was studying the data coming in from the Voyager missions which flew through the (dipole) magnetospheres of the outer planets. He noticed that unlike laboratory confined fusion plasmas which tended to be unstable, difficult to control, and which lost energy quickly, the plasma of a magnetosphere is intrinsically more quiescent, stable and actually reacts favorably (increases its density/temperature) to outside perturbations such as ie. bombardment by a solar storm. A highly informative and interesting video of operations on the day of first shot can be found here. Congratulations to the scientists and engineers who have worked very hard on getting the project to this point and here's looking forward to the possibility that LDX will reveal fundamentally new physics in the arduous quest for clean fusion energy."
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