A first for KSTAR plasmas generated thanks to Group’s technologies

September 18, 2008

Mastering nuclear fusion offers the potential to produce electrical energy differently, contributing thus to the challenge of satisfying increasing worldwide energy requirements.

Scientists at KSTAR (Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research) in South Korea have just successfully generated the first plasmas in the core of their new Tokamak.

The success concludes the installation and start-up phase of this unique technical apparatus. Doing so marks a significant milestone in the development of the project which, combined with other international programmes, contributes to improving the knowledge and mastery of fusion reactions, designed to generate electrical energy.

The NFRI (National Fusion Research Institute) in South Korea has developed a Tokamak, an ultra-sophisticated physics-based instrument whose purpose is to generate plasmas that make possible the conditions required for controlled nuclear fusion of atoms. This type of reaction, which also occurs in the sun, releases a large amount of energy that can be converted into electrical energy. In order to obtain the very powerful electromagnetic fields necessary for the confinement of this physical reaction, superconducting magnets must be used, which only function at extremely low temperatures. It is liquid helium which enables such temperatures to be maintained within the Tokamak.

Air Liquide, a partner in the KSTAR project since 2005, designed and built the Tokamak’s system of helium liquefaction and distribution, in operation since the beginning of this year. This incorporates a refrigerator, designed to cool the superconducting magnets of the experimental reactor to a temperature of minus 269°C, that is, close to absolute zero. Air Liquide’s unique expertise in mastering ultra low temperatures, and its teams’ expertise in developing innovative technologies, enable the Group to cooperate in numerous scientific projects relating to particle physics and the applications of supraconductivity (such as its remarkable collaboration with CERN on the Large Hadron Collider-LHC, which began operating on September 10), and which call for a total mastery of cryogenics at ultra low temperatures.

“We are delighted about KSTAR’s first successes, in which we are proud to be involved. They represent an important step towards the ITER international experimental reactor, to which our teams will be able to contribute their expertise. This success shows the capacity of the Air Liquide Group to respond to major technological challenges and to contribute towards developing future energy solutions”, declared François Darchis, a member of the Executive Committee of the Air Liquide Group, in charge of Advanced Technologies.