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Demo of Fusion Plasma Conditions Is a Key 20th Century Achievement.

Laboratory demonstration of plasma conditions (temperatures and pressures) required for a future fusion reactor is a major achievement of the 20th century, said Miklos Porkolab, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Plasma Science and Fusion Center.

Porkolab's comments came during a survey of MIT scientists' views of the major achievements of the 20th century and their predictions for the 21st century.

High-temperature plasma physics was born in the 20th century, Porkolab said. Its development "was motivated mainly by the quest to convert thermonuclear power into a source of energy for the benefit of mankind."

Sustained thermonuclear burn, however, has not been demonstrated in the laboratory.

Porkolab identified the most promising approaches to controlled thermonuclear power as heating plasmas to thermonuclear temperatures (about 200 million degrees Celsius) in "magnetic bottles" or bombarding capsules of plasma with high-power lasers.

In the next century, self-sustained thermonuclear burn - a process key to development of thermonuclear fusion as an energy source -will be demonstrated in the laboratory, he predicted.

"Prototype fusion plants will be developed, and commercial fusion reactors providing environmentally acceptable 'clean' electric power will be deployed throughout the world."

He also predicted that the physics of plasmas, the electrically charged gas used to create fusion, would be understood in the 21st century. "This knowledge will also help us understand a variety of astrophysical observations, since more than 99 percent of the visible universe is in the plasma state."

Finally, he said, plasmas will be used in numerous commercial applications, "from environmental cleanup to materials processing."

The MIT survey is available on the university's Web site: (http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/tt/ 1999/dec15/century.html).
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Comment:Demo of Fusion Plasma Conditions Is a Key 20th Century Achievement.
Publication:Fusion Power Report
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Words:274
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