Energy – Greifswald – Science from the sun: Wendelstein 7-X is looking for a new energy source – Economics

Greifswald (dpa) – With the official completion of the reconstruction, the large research facility Wendelstein 7-X enters a new experimental phase. Now it’s about continuous work. “This is a real mission,” said physicist and project manager Thomas Klinger on Tuesday. “The Wendelstein 7-X is ready.” The prospect of further new discoveries for alternative energy generation was celebrated with a ceremony attended by many academics, industry and politics.

Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger provided further support for basic research into nuclear fusion technology in Germany. “The merger is a great opportunity for our energy supply and our independence,” said the FDP politician. If it were possible to generate large amounts of energy through fusion, it would make a valuable contribution to covering the base load.

In “W7-X” scientists from the Institute of Plasma Physics Max Planck (IPP) are trying to mimic the production of solar energy on Earth and use it as an alternative energy source. The upcoming experiments will investigate the basics of the continued operation of a stellarator system.

The research facility contains electrically charged hydrogen gas in a vacuum chamber that is exposed to extreme heat. This plasma is held in suspension by a meter high magnetic coils, keeping it away from the chamber walls. The source of energy is the heat generated during nuclear fusion.

The purpose of the conversion is not to generate plasma for just a few seconds as it used to be before, but for a much longer period of time. 100 seconds under moderate conditions is already possible in Greifswald. The target is now up to 30 minutes.

630 new water cooling circuits were installed to ensure longer operation with maximum temperatures of 50 million degrees Celsius. This is to cool the “tiles” inside the chamber. The heart of the system is a ring of 50 magnetic coils, about 3.5 meters high, cooled down to minus 270 degrees. The heat generated in the chamber is to be used as an energy source and converted into electricity using heat exchangers and steam turbines, or dissipated as direct heat in heating systems.

IPP’s scientific director, Sibylle Günter, said: “The Wendelstein 7-X is already the most powerful stellarator in the world. The expansion now completed gives us the opportunity to further increase the efficiency parameters that are important for fusion power plants and to demonstrate that stellarators can be reliably used in order to run continuously. “

Science Minister MV Bettina Martin (SPD) stressed that the Wendelstein 7-X is being tested at the highest international level at the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern research center for sustainable solutions for the energy needs of the future. “The government of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is proud to be home to the world’s leading star object, Wendelstein 7-X.”

The Greifswald facility itself does not yet provide fusion energy, but is used for basic research to demonstrate the utility of stellarator fusion systems for power plants. In Garching, IPP runs a large-scale research center of the “Tokamak” type. A total of around 1,100 employees work at both locations, 450 of which are in Greifwald. IPP is therefore one of the largest fusion research centers in Europe.

The secretary general of the Max Planck Society, Simone Schwanitz, described the Wendelstein 7-X as “a masterpiece of fundamental research and engineering”. The design is unique in many ways. Fusion technology means clean energy without CO2 emissions and long-term nuclear waste, emphasized Schwanitz, who thanked the sponsors for their trust and time.

The total costs of the “W 7-X” project, launched in 1996, are 1.3 billion euros, the cost of the power plant itself is 400 million euros. The project is funded by federal, state and EU governments. Only in 2022, the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern finances a research project with the amount of around 5.5 million. The federal government’s support for this period amounts to approximately EUR 52 million.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220809-99-326942 / 4

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