Trap for the Sun

What are the prospects of fusion energy, and how humanity needs it? When a fusion reactor will be built and will there finally mankind has an inexhaustible source of energy? This and many other says Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Viktor I. Ilgisonis, head of the laboratory of the Institute of Physics of the nonequilibrium plasma Tokamak Physics Research Center "Kurchatov Institute"


A matter of chance

History of the development of controlled thermonuclear fusion (CTF) in Russia and the Soviet Union began … accident. In 1950, an obscure Soviet Army sergeant Oleg Lavrentiev, who served on the Sakhalin Island, sent to the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) the letter containing the proposal by electrostatic confinement of deuterium spherical grids under the negative and positive potential. A talented young man did not even have time to finish school, having gone to the front as a volunteer. Letter was sent to the AD Sakharov, who discussed the issue with his teacher IE Tamm. (Thermonuclear reactions were discovered in 1920., And the term coined by a member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR George Gamow).

Letter Oleg Lavrentiev was the catalyst of birth of the Soviet program of research into controlled thermonuclear fusion: though his suggestions were shortcomings are obvious, Tamm and Sakharov began to develop the idea with enthusiasm, and soon realized that it is possible to create a fundamentally new device — magnetic fusion reactor. As the basis of its scientists had proposed the concept of a closed magnetic traps, which was later called the "tokamak" (toroidal chamber with magnetic coils). Tokamak is a toroidal system designed for the creation and retention of high-temperature plasma. The word subsequently became an international neologism, like Russian word "satellite". Igor Kurchatov himself strongly supported the idea of research into controlled thermonuclear fusion. With his characteristic energy and determination he brought to the work of major Soviet physicists.

May 5, 1951 the Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, signed I. Stalin laid the foundation for the world’s first state program of fusion research. These works were started in the Laboratory of Measuring Instruments of the USSR (as was then called the current NRC "Kurchatov Institute"), under the personal direction of IV Kurchatov. Subsequent domestic developments in fusion rightly associate with the names of other great Kurchatov-L.A. Artsimovich, MA Leontovycha EP Velikhova. BB KP. VD Shafranov

— History of domestic and thermonuclear tokamakostroeniya largely developed in the Kurchatov Center — says Vladimir Ilgisonis. — The first tokamak was established in 1955 installation called TMP (torus with a magnetic field). Although our current understanding of it was just a prototype of a tokamak. And in real-stainless-steel tokamak T-1 was established in 1958 under the leadership of our scientists NA Yavlinsky and IN Golovin.

The apotheosis of the initial stage of development of tokamaks was an event that occurred in 1968 at the International Conference of the IAEA in Novosibirsk. There were reported research results obtained by the Kurchatov tokamakeT-3, namely demonstrated remarkably high at the time, the electron temperature at 1 keV, which is more than 10 million ° C — and a relatively long time of plasma is significantly superior to the values of these parameters achieved by other magnetic traps. It was quite a sensation in the scientific world. Then in Moscow, the Kurchatov Institute, the British arrived with his physics instrumentation. They not only confirmed the findings of our experiments, but also recorded a higher temperature plasma than the one that has been carefully specified in the report.

Invasion of the tokamak

— I can not believe that research on thermonuclear were not classified and scientists can safely exchange data.

— In the first half of the 1950s. These studies have evolved as secret in the Soviet Union and in other countries. But in 1956, on the initiative of the Kurchatov decided to declassify these works. He first realized that the study of this magnitude can not afford one country: they are knowledge-intensive, expensive, for their development requires huge strong teams of scientists and engineers. In his famous speech at the British nuclear center at Harwell for the first time called for the declassification of work and international cooperation in the field of fusion research. Kurchatov set an example by telling about the research on controlled thermonuclear fusion, conducted in the USSR: after all, at that time we were in the lead in many ways in this area. Therefore, with the publication in 1956 of fusion research have been opened, started international cooperation in this field, and the visit of foreigners in Moscow in 1968 was one of the first, when the representatives of another country visited the "closed" institutions. This created a furore in the world.

After that began a march tokamaks around the world — from the U.S. to Europe and Japan. At the end of the XX century. tokamakostroenie actively involved in Southeast Asia and some other countries. Everything in the world was built over a hundred tokamaks, this device has become central to the study of high-temperature plasma in fusion laboratories all over the world.

— What happened in this area in our country?

— In our country, the Kurchatov Institute was established in the T-10, which in the 1970s. was the largest in the world. A little later, in 1979. we have the installation of T-7 — the first superconducting tokamak, which was still used a system of so-called noninductive current drive. The fact that the current required to create a tokamak and heating of the plasma, but it also turns out to be the main disadvantage. With the end of the current flow and the plasma disappears, so classic tokamak can not work continuously. However, physicists have come up with that current can be supported not only by the usual

transformer, but also special — noninductive methods: for example, injected into the plasma beams of fast neutral atoms is directed to enter electromagnetic waves.

It should be noted that T-10 successfully still works. Its hallmark has always been a powerful organization of the electronic component of the plasma heating by microwave electromagnetic waves. In our country, special devices have been invented — gyrotron, with which the temperature had been reached at 100 million ° C. It also has the world record.

Finally, in 1988 was launched superconducting tokamak T-15 — is the new best superconductor of niobium and tin.

— When was the step from research on fusion directly to the fusion energy?

— Thanks to the studies conducted on the tokamak, in the mid-1980s. was made (mainly through the efforts of Academician BB Kadomtsev) concluded that at the present level of development of fusion and understanding of the ongoing processes in the plasma can be achieved fusion parameters and, therefore, to begin the transition to the formation of the basics of fusion energy. This is a very important conclusion was accepted by the world scientific community at once. Experimental and theoretical evidence for this postulate served as a new impetus for the continuation and development of fusion research worldwide. Were invented ways to add heat and maintain
the plasma. In addition, the tokamak has a new, fundamentally important to the future of fusion reactor element — the divergence of the torus. This device protects the wall of the vacuum chamber from the local overheating can better control the flow of particles and energy from the plasma flow and to reduce the impurities in the plasma.

In the 1990s. it was experimentally discovered the phenomenon of self-organizing improved confinement of the plasma, which is an even greater reason to expect it possible to go to thermonuclear parameters.

Self-organization processes occur not only in the plasma — it’s a very interesting phenomenon, the theory of which is very complicated, it can be said, one of the leading theoretical constructs in modern physics. But in the self-organization of a plasma display "alive", and using a tokamak we studied and its control.

Currently, research topics in the field of fusion varied. Magnetic confinement of plasma is realized mainly natokamakah. which are located at the Kurchatov Institute, vTRINITI in St. Petersburg Physico-Technical Institute. Joffe. Tokamaks — the most advanced system for controlled thermonuclear fusion, but there are other types of magnetic traps, such stellaragor. This is also a closed magnetic trap for plasma confinement, but unlike tokamak poloidal magnetic field, a magnetic surface is created in the Stellarator with external coils and not the current flowing through the plasma. It is an American invention, in our country stellarator-tors continue to be engaged in the Institute of General Physics. Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Novosibirsk still left open the trap — they have their own perspectives and benefits.

Construction of the century

— Why termoyaderschiki claim that ITER — construction of the century? After all, there is, for example, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN-largest international scientific project that other megaustanovki?

— ITER-century building by far. because Humanity is testing a new experiment. This is not just cooperation of scientists from different countries, as a step forward of our entire civilization. Never before has mankind been building facilities of this high level of complexity with the amount of financial costs. It is a gigantic height of about 30 meters, weighing 23 tons, with a plasma volume of 840 cubic meters. m (with a maximum of 100 for today). And most importantly — 150,000,000 ° C in continuous mode of combustion.

The collider, of course, an enormous installation, but it is technologically and structurally simpler tokamak ITER. I would like to emphasize the merit of our country in the creation of ITER. At the heart of it — the same tokamak, whose idea was proposed and implemented for the first time in the world at the Kurchatov Institute. The idea of creating an international experimental fusion reactor has been put forward by Academician EP Velikhov, president of the Research Center "Kurchatov Institute", back in the 1980s. He managed to convince the country of the need for our participation in the creation of a major international thermonuclear reactor. Since about 1988 the concept was developed in collaboration ITER four members — Russia, the United States. European Union and Japan. After the end of painstaking research and design work began construction in Cadarache in France. Today involved in the project for seven countries to join the first participant in China, South Korea and India. ITER design parameters considerably exceed already achieved in modern plants, each of the multiple systems installation is unique in its scale and complexity of production. This applies to tritium, used to recharge the plasma fuel to the cryogenic system needed to cool the superconducting coils of the magnetic system ITER. to the actual coils, the design elements of the divertor. Especially designed complex software systems for the calculation of the design and operation modes of the future plant is designed with a remote manipulator control system, capable of up to a millimeter to handle any components of ITER.

Analogue of such a project is still in the scientific world was not. All existing installation even larger scale (eg, nuclear power plants), ideologically and structurally much easier.

— That is, ITER will produce fusion energy and will thus an inexhaustible source of energy?

— Not really. ITER — this is not the reactor in the conventional sense. Of course, it will produce fusion energy, but not on an industrial scale, while setting the next generation for ITER-DEMO — should already will demonstrate the possibility of industrial production of electricity. The concept of this installation has been discussed seriously at the present time until the engineering details. It is expected to be even larger in scope than ITER: for example, its fusion power will reach 2.4 GW versus 500 MW in ITER. But at the same thermonuclear installations are quite compact — the size they are no more than a standard nuclear power plant.

With ITER will also have to solve the problem of the choice of materials for a fusion reactor. Pressures on the materials used for making the fusion reactor, so high and not comparable with the data available to us today that we can not yet say with certainty exactly what materials will conform to the specifications laid down in the project ITER, and are guaranteed to work in it.

— What is the expected life of ITER? More than, for example, nuclear power plants?

— The projected life of the ITER-25. It is assumed that during this time all the knowledge that we will get, will be developed by scientists, and then either take a transition to the next generation of the car (eg DEMO), or will be something entirely new.

Triumph of Russian Technologies

— Of course, is especially proud of the fact that the system of the tokamak, which lies at the heart of ITER, was proposed by Russian specialists in the walls of the Kurchatov Institute. However, in addition to past services, the role currently played by Russia in this global project?

— The role of Russia is significant. As a full member of the project, our country contributes 9% of the ITER facilities in the form of high-tech equipment. To fulfill the obligations of the Russian Federation within the framework of the project involved about 30 scientific and industrial organizations and enterprises. Kurchatov Institute is largely coordinated their activities in a grand mega-project. This applies to the design of the magnetic system, the production of superconductors for a magnetic system ITER.

Production for ITER is extremely complex. Products must pass the most rigorous quality control standards that are higher than the model used today in the European and American industry. Therefore, taking part in the project ITER, we will, among other things, create a unique technology base for our industry. In particular, the production of unparalleled superconductors Chepetz Mechanical Plant in Glazov. Superconductors for ITER represent complex cable article woven from the individual wires of a diameter less than 1 mm, each of which contains several thousand thinnest (3.7 mm) of the superconducting filaments. For comparison, human hair thickness ranges from 40 to 110 microns. Another example is the gyrotron — Russian invention, developed in Nizhny Novgorod in the Institute of Applied Physics and Scientific-production enterprise "Gikom."

However, not enough to create a high-tech manufacturing. need to organize test high technology products, especially unique. Such tests are engaged in the research center "Kurchatov Institute", because there is a special equipment, including plasma systems. In making allotted to the RF systems for diagnostic complex Kurchatov Institute, for example, is developing a
diagnostic spectrometry lines of hydrogen isotopes and provides scientific oversight of the manufacture of the relevant elements for ITER.

— What is the current state of basic and applied research in the field of fusion? What is most important? What discoveries are made, what kind of technology come from? How is it changed with the advent of tokamak physics?

— Fusion research has been going on for many years. Interestingly, the side, so to speak, the product of fusion research has led to numerous plasma technology, which has found applications in the industry. This, for example, strong electromagnetic radiation generators, various plasma torches, which are used not only to fill the plasma magnetic traps, but also in a variety of technological applications.

For example, a plasma scalpel, which is now considered one of the best tools in surgery — a by-product of nuclear fusion research. The plasma flow in it is very thin, it automatically brews blood vessels, and the operation is practically bloodless. Or plasma accelerator — a device which is capable of throwing a powerful flow of plasma, unlike in tokamak wherein plasma is confined in a closed space. The idea of this device belongs to a scientist from the Kurchatov Institute of Alexei Ivanovich Morozov, who believed that the plasma of such an accelerator can fill volume of a fusion reactor, thus simplifying the process of creation and initial heating of the plasma.

In addition to large units have been established and relatively tiny. For example, all the same Morozov invented a stationary plasma thruster (SPT). And this is an example of how the pure idea, not having analogues, has been implemented and mastered space industry. Now such entity is released in the production association, they put on a lot of our space vehicles, and it is the engine of this type may be installed in the vehicle, which will go to Mars. You to appreciate the scale of this achievement and its importance in the global aerospace, I would like to note the following fact: in the Centre Pompidou in Paris, part of the exhibition "Space" on the achievements of the USSR and Russia, there were only two exhibits: Photo Gagarin and SPD Morozov.

Very actively promote its plasma technologies associated with hardening materials. Thus, hardening of the surface materials (for example, the cutting tool edge) using plasma technology can improve the wear resistance not only several times in a procedure. This is done with the help of developed at the Kurchatov Institute of ion implantation for hardening materials cutting tools, which was one of the first in our country nanotech projects implemented in the production of scientific and production association "Saturn."

 — So, nanotechnology, to some extent, too, can be considered as a derivative of plasma technology?

— Many of nanotechnology based on plasma methods because such methods as well as methods of gas discharge sputtering — it’s one of the best ways to create nano-objects. Most objects. which later became the subject of the study of nanotechnology, such as fullerenes or nanotubes can be synthesized in plasma discharges with carbon-containing electrodes and vice versa using a gas discharge and precipitating agent in the plasma sprayed on the surface of the material, you can reach the desired coverage — a very thin, with the desired properties.

Or, for example, magnetic pulse welding — a technology that also came out of the walls of the Kurchatov Institute. It allows a strong weld between the materials that are not bonded to any other method or welded with difficulty: copper or aluminum with stainless steel alloys, titanium, zirconium or nonmetals. Such compounds are needed for special applications in the aerospace industry, in a physical experiment, and medical equipment. This technology is also already out of the walls of our institution in the industry. Another, no less an innovative technology that is required to create new materials — Sintering (compacting) powders pulsed field.

I would like to mention a totally unexpected area of nanomaterials, which is directly related to nuclear fusion. Under the influence of the plasma is the erosion of structural materials tokamak fusion operation and after installation on the walls there are nano-scale structures — the nano-powders or nano-films, as well as the interest of the form of hollow nanocapsules. The potential application of such objects is so pervasive that

hard to imagine. For example, it may be a capsule for targeted delivery of drugs to the patient body, which medicine is in demand, and nano-films can be used as gas reservoirs and sinks as they are good absorbers. It is important for hydrogen energy.

— O hydrogen energy a lot of talk and discuss in recent years. But did she, too, grew out of plasma technology? How relevant are the current research in the field of hydrogen energy?

— Hydrogen Energy is an independent field of alternative (with respect to hydrocarbon) fuel. Her appearance are largely due to plasma chemistry and plasma-chemical processes, in turn, really began to develop as a side branch of fusion research. The plasma discharge has several properties that allow to carry out such chemical reactions between substances that would normally be impossible.

One of the first plasma-chemical plants in the country have been set up at the Kurchatov center, it includes the whole unit was formed, where scientists are engaged in complex large-scale plasma-chemical processes. In particular, the decomposition of carbon dioxide to produce oxygen, nitrogen fixation reaction and production of hydrogen.

In my view, the term "hydrogen energy" is not quite correct and is used more for mass awareness. Still, energy — is an industry that produces energy. Hydrogen power is in some sense a conflict of words, since, in order to, burning hydrogen, gain energy, you must first obtain this hydrogen. The production of hydrogen itself requires energy expenditure, therefore the hydrogen-not so much a source of energy as the energy agency.

In this context, the production of hydrogen-important independent task. For his heavy use of appropriate technologies needed production, storage and transportation, and only then we can talk about the use of hydrogen for various purposes. At present, there are several methods of preparation and storage of hydrogen. This gas can be extracted from water by electrolysis can be of hydrocarbons from methane by the same conversion and biomass. It can be stored and transported in tanks in the gaseous or liquid form, but is very inefficient and explosive. Profitable to store hydrogen in the form of any chemical compounds or using carbon nanostructures, and not only the already known nanotubes, but also so-called branched nanomoh-porous nanostructure capable of adsorbing gas and store it in large quantities.

To be or not to be?

— Can we say that in 60 years of research in the field of controlled thermonuclear fusion by-products and technologies were more than results related directly to the fusion reaction?

— I do not agree. Progress in Nuclear Fusion, not only is it perhaps the fastest, if you compare it with the very fast developing area of technology — computer. With the help of simple calculations, we can show that progress in thermonuclear fusion is faster than advances in computer technology, described by Moore’s Law.

Advantages of a fusion reactor are well known. This is a much more secure technology from the point of view of not only the environment, but also some obviou
s threats, such as terrorism. If a terrorist explode a thermonuclear station, then just turn off the plasma discharge. Physicists are known neutron-poor and non-cash tronic thermonuclear reactions that require significantly higher plasma parameters compared to ITER.

Today advantages of fusion energy are obvious, proven history of CF came to the moment when the world is seriously considered construction projects thermonuclear plants.

— What is the price of such a safe and environmentally beneficial energy?

— ITER estimated 2011., Will cost about $ 17 billion is possible that this figure will grow in 2020, although all member states strongly oppose this. Conventional nuclear power plant is now worth about $ 700 million in terms of one gigawatt thermal power (meaning the only construction). In this sense, the ITER nuclear power plays. But it is only in the development of the oil industry (not even for production) spent more than $ 100 billion a year. And it is pointless to compare these amounts to the cost of military operations in the world. It is known that the Iraq war has cost S750 billion (according to the Pentagon in 2009). According to the statement of the U.S. President Barack Obama in the 2011 war in Afghanistan was worth about $ 130 billion per year, or year of the war in Afghanistan — the eight fusion reactors such as ITER.

— This begs the question: why has not this inexhaustible source of energy? When we move from theory to practice? It would seem that all the conditions for this are — technology, finance.

— This is the most serious issue, but I would formulate it as: whether fusion energy to modern humanity? Currently, fusion energy to humanity is not needed. Rather, it is not ready to this, primarily mentally. This industry simply can not now take up the economic niche: there is no mechanism that would force oil and other extractive companies to abandon the instant and permanent income and pay the appropriate fusion energy sector of the market.

But it does not mean that it is not necessary to further develop the fusion of technology and wait until they will not have a real need. These technologies are very complex, and only the long-term systematic efforts of humanity will allow him to prepare for the situation in which such an energy there is a real need. A similar situation arises necessarily. and then have to immediately take up the practical realization of fusion energy.

We have talked about that. that work on nuclear fusion led to the development of a science, plasma physics, the product of which, in turn, began to plasma technology. Now, the reverse process. Development and improvement of plasma technology requires further development of plasma physics, including fusion research.

The only Nobel Prize winner, received the award for the plasma ("for fundamental work and discoveries in magneto-hydrodynamics, and their efficient application in different fields of physics," 1970). — Swedish physicist Hannes Alfvén. It is obvious that as long as thermonuclear will not be realized, no Nobel Prizes in physics of plasma can be expected.

— Do I need to be as actively pursue research in the field of controlled thermonuclear fusion, with no less enthusiasm than at the beginning, 60 years ago?

— Hegel’s phrase "all reasonable-indeed," has been repeatedly tested practice. Take the work of Japanese engineering the late 1970s and early 1980s. The motto of the Japanese was the statement: no matter how fantastic it may seem pointless or an invention, if it can be created, it must be created, because maybe it will find its use. The same thing I would say about fusion research. If fusion is not forbidden by fundamental physical laws, it should be implemented. Let us remember when the first nuclear power plant, about any economic benefit from the production of electricity from nuclear power, and there could be no. The danger posed by the first nuclear power station, is not comparable to what we expect from a fusion power plant. The world’s top countries can no longer do without nuclear energy, so I have no doubt that the thermonuclear research should continue. Also, it is interesting physics, new technology with real and concrete use. You can not forget about the political significance of the thermonuclear reaction. Only the strong, looking forward develop fusion power program. Conversely, a country not involved in fusion research today is automatically considered a third world country. Kurchatov Institute, Russia and occupy a worthy place in this area. |

Interviewed by Olesya Penkina

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