There are hundreds of such reactors, known as Tokamak, in state-funded research facilities around the world, including Joint European Taurus A 35-nation partnership in the United Kingdom, and ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, in southern France. For decades, researchers have been using them to tackle the challenge of nuclear fusion, a potentially revolutionary technology that could provide virtually unlimited power. Inside a tokamak, strong magnets are used to hold the rotating plasma at a high pressure, enabling the atoms to reach the millions of degrees required to combine and emit energy. Critics argue that nuclear fusion will forever be the source of future energy – at the moment, fusion experiments still use more electricity than they can generate.
But Kostadinova and her colleague Dmitry Orlov were more interested in the plasma inside these reactors, which they realized could be a suitable environment to mimic a spacecraft entering the atmosphere of a gas giant. Orlov works at the DIII-D fusion reactor, an experimental tokamak at the U.S. Department of Energy facility in San Diego, but his background is in space engineering.
Together, they use the DIII-D facilities to run multiple tests on extinction. Using a port under Tokamak, they inserted a series of carbon rods into the plasma stream and used high-speed and infrared cameras and spectrometers to track. How they have become isolated. Orlov and Kostadinova also fired minaskul Carbon pellets Enter the furnace at high speed by mimicking on a small scale what the heat shield of the Galileo probe will encounter in Jupiter’s atmosphere.
Tokamak’s internal conditions were remarkably similar to plasma temperature, velocity of matter, and even its composition: the Jovian atmosphere consisted mostly of hydrogen and helium, DIII-D Tokamak deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen. “Instead of launching something at very high speeds, we put a stationary object in a very fast flow,” Orlov said.
The experiments, which were presented at a meeting of the American Physical Society in Pittsburgh this month, helped verify Model of extinction Which were created by NASA scientists using data sent back from the Galileo probe. But they also serve as evidence for a new kind of experiment. “We’re opening up this new field of research,” Orlov said “No one has done it before.”
This is something that is very much needed in the industry. “There is a gap in the new testing method,” said its founder, Yani Barghouti. Cosmic Shielding Corporation, A startup building radiation shield for spacecraft. “This allows you to prototype much faster and cheaper – there’s a response loop.”
It remains to be seen whether nuclear fusion reactors will be a practical test site – they are incredibly sensitive devices designed for a completely different purpose. Orlov and Kostadinov were given time as part of a special effort to use the reactor to expand scientific knowledge in DIII-D, using a port built in Tokama to safely test new materials. But it is an expensive process. The cost of their day on the machine is half a million dollars. As a result, such tests are unlikely to be performed in the future, when the opportunity arises to change and improve computer simulations.