Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor comes online

The Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor has been powered up for plasma operation for the first time, briefly heating helium to around 1 million degrees Celsius.

The first plasma in Wendelstein 7-X. (Credit: IPP)
The first plasma in Wendelstein 7-X. (Credit: IPP)

Built by the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Greifswald, Germany, W7-X is the largest and most advanced stellarator ever built. In development for well over a decade, its construction took nine years and involved over a million hours of assembly. It is hoped the reactor will act as a proof of concept, demonstrating that stellarators could be used in power stations of the future.

The Engineer recently spoke with Dr Lutz Wegener, head of assembly on the W7-X. That interview forms the basis for our latest cover feature, which can be read here.

The next steps for the project will be to extend the duration of the plasma discharges and to investigate the best method of producing and heating helium plasmas using microwaves. In the new year, the team will make preparation for the first hydrogen plasma. To achieve nuclear fusion, W7-X will need to reach temperature of around 100 million C.