Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Fusion power


Ignition is needed to make fusion energy a viable alternative energy source, but has yet to be achieved. A key step on the way to ignition is to have the energy generated through fusion reactions in an inertially confined fusion plasma exceed the amount of energy deposited into the deuterium-tritium fusion fuel and hotspot during the implosion process, resulting in a fuel gain greater than unity. Here we report the achievement of fusion fuel gains exceeding unity on the US National Ignition Facility using a ‘high-foot’ implosion method, which is a manipulation of the laser pulse shape in a way that reduces instability in the implosion. These experiments show an order-of-magnitude improvement in yield performance over past deuterium-tritium implosion experiments. We also see a significant contribution to the yield from α-particle self-heating and evidence for the ‘bootstrapping’ required to accelerate the deuterium-tritium fusion burn to eventually ‘run away’ and ignite.

Concepts: Laser, Nuclear fusion, Plasma, Nuclear power, Energy development, Alternative energy, Fusion power, Inertial confinement fusion


Fusion energy research has in the past 40 years focused primarily on the tokamak concept, but recent advances in plasma theory and computational power have led to renewed interest in stellarators. The largest and most sophisticated stellarator in the world, Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X), has just started operation, with the aim to show that the earlier weaknesses of this concept have been addressed successfully, and that the intrinsic advantages of the concept persist, also at plasma parameters approaching those of a future fusion power plant. Here we show the first physics results, obtained before plasma operation: that the carefully tailored topology of nested magnetic surfaces needed for good confinement is realized, and that the measured deviations are smaller than one part in 100,000. This is a significant step forward in stellarator research, since it shows that the complicated and delicate magnetic topology can be created and verified with the required accuracy.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Nuclear fusion, Plasma, Fusion power, Tokamak, Stellarator, Reversed field pinch, Stellarators


Ultrahigh-energy density (UHED) matter, characterized by energy densities >1 × 10(8) J cm(-3) and pressures greater than a gigabar, is encountered in the center of stars and inertial confinement fusion capsules driven by the world’s largest lasers. Similar conditions can be obtained with compact, ultrahigh contrast, femtosecond lasers focused to relativistic intensities onto targets composed of aligned nanowire arrays. We report the measurement of the key physical process in determining the energy density deposited in high-aspect-ratio nanowire array plasmas: the energy penetration. By monitoring the x-ray emission from buried Co tracer segments in Ni nanowire arrays irradiated at an intensity of 4 × 10(19) W cm(-2), we demonstrate energy penetration depths of several micrometers, leading to UHED plasmas of that size. Relativistic three-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations, validated by these measurements, predict that irradiation of nanostructures at intensities of >1 × 10(22) W cm(-2) will lead to a virtually unexplored extreme UHED plasma regime characterized by energy densities in excess of 8 × 10(10) J cm(-3), equivalent to a pressure of 0.35 Tbar.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Density, Nuclear fusion, Pressure, Pascal, Plasma, Energy density, Fusion power


The use of lateral mass screws and rods in the subaxial spine has become the standard method of fixation for posterior cervical spine fusions. Multiple techniques have been described for the placement of lateral mass screws, including the Magerl, the Anderson, and the An techniques. While these techniques are all slightly different, the overall goal is to obtain solid bony fixation while avoiding the neurovascular structures. The use of lateral mass screws has been shown to be a safe and effective technique for achieving a posterior cervical fusion.

Concepts: Lumbar vertebrae, Vertebral column, Cervical vertebrae, Thoracic vertebrae, Fusion power


Intracellular compartmentalisation is a significant barrier to the successful nucleocytosolic delivery of biologics. The endocytic system has been shown to be responsible for compartmentalisation, providing an entry point, and trigger(s) for the activation of drug delivery systems. Consequently, many of the technologies used to understand endocytosis have found utility within the field of drug delivery. The use of fluorescent proteins as markers denoting compartmentalisation within the endocytic system has become commonplace. Several of the limitations associated with the use of green fluorescent protein (GFP) within the context of drug delivery have been explored here by asking a series of related questions: (1) Are molecules that regulate fusion to a specific compartment (i.e. Rab- or SNARE-GFP fusions) a good choice of marker for that compartment? (2) How reliable was GFP-marker overexpression when used to define a given endocytic compartment? (3) Can glutathione-s-transferase (GST) fused in frame with GFP (GST-GFP) act as a fluid phase endocytic probe? (4) Was GFP fluorescence a robust indicator of (GFP) protein integrity? This study concluded that there are many appropriate and useful applications for GFP; however, thought and an understanding of the biological and physicochemical character of these markers are required for the generation of meaningful data.

Concepts: Protein, Oxygen, Cell, Molecular biology, Cell membrane, Green fluorescent protein, Yellow fluorescent protein, Fusion power


Noncentrosymmetric potassium dihydrogen phosphate (KH2PO4 or KDP) in the tetragonal crystal phase is arguably the most extensively studied nonlinear optical crystal in history. It has prolific applications ranging from simple laser pointers to laser inertial confinement fusion systems. Recently, type IV high-pressure KDP crystal sheets with a monoclinic crystal phase having centrosymmetric properties have been observed. However, it was found that this new crystal phase is highly unstable under ambient conditions. We report ambient-condition growth of one-dimensional, self-assembled, single-crystalline KDP hexagonal hollow/solid-core microstructures that have a molecular structure and symmetry identical to the type IV KDP monoclinic crystal that was previously found to exist only at extremely high pressures (>1.6 GPa). Furthermore, we report highly efficient bulk optical second harmonic generation (SHG) from these ambient condition-grown single-crystalline microstructures, even though they have a highly centrosymmetric crystal phase. However, fundamental physics dictates that a bulk optical medium with a significant second-order nonlinear susceptibility supporting SHG must have noncentrosymmetric properties. Laue diffraction analysis reveals a weak symmetry-breaking twin-crystal lattice that, in conjunction with tight confinement of the light field by the tubular structure, is attributed to the significant SHG even with sample volumes <0.001 mm(3). A robust polarization-preserving effect is also observed, raising the possibility of advanced optical technological applications.

Concepts: Crystal, Crystallography, Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Laser, Crystal system, Nonlinear optics, Fusion power


Providing an efficacious plasma facing surface between the extreme plasma heat exhaust and the structural materials of nuclear fusion devices is a major challenge on the road to electricity production by fusion power plants. The performance of solid plasma facing surfaces may become critically reduced over time due to progressing damage accumulation. Liquid metals, however, are now gaining interest in solving the challenge of extreme heat flux hitting the reactor walls. A key advantage of liquid metals is the use of vapour shielding to reduce the plasma exhaust. Here we demonstrate that this phenomenon is oscillatory by nature. The dynamics of a Sn vapour cloud are investigated by exposing liquid Sn targets to H and He plasmas at heat fluxes greater than 5 MW m(-2). The observations indicate the presence of a dynamic equilibrium between the plasma and liquid target ruled by recombinatory processes in the plasma, leading to an approximately stable surface temperature.Vapour shielding is one of the interesting mechanisms for reducing the heat load to plasma facing components in fusion reactors. Here the authors report on the observation of a dynamic equilibrium between the plasma and the divertor liquid Sn surface leading to an overall stable surface temperature.

Concepts: Temperature, Thermodynamics, Nuclear fusion, Gas, Lithium, Plasma, Nuclear power, Fusion power


Nanotendril “fuzz” will grow under He bombardment under tokamak-relevant conditions on tungsten plasma-facing materials in a magnetic fusion energy device. We have grown tungsten nanotendrils at low (50 eV) and high (12 keV) He bombardment energy, in the range 900-1000 °C, and characterized them using electron microscopy. Low energy tendrils are finer (~22 nm diameter) than high-energy tendrils (~176 nm diameter), and low-energy tendrils have a smoother surface than high-energy tendrils. Cavities were omnipresent and typically ~5-10 nm in size. Oxygen was present at tendril surfaces, but tendrils were all BCC tungsten metal. Electron diffraction measured tendril growth axes and grain boundary angle/axis pairs; no preferential growth axes or angle/axis pairs were observed, and low-energy fuzz grain boundaries tended to be high angle; high energy tendril grain boundaries were not observed. We speculate that the strong tendency to high-angle grain boundaries in the low-energy tendrils implies that as the tendrils twist or bend, strain must accumulate until nucleation of a grain boundary is favorable compared to further lattice rotation. The high-energy tendrils consisted of very large (>100 nm) grains compared to the tendril size, so the nature of the high energy irradiation must enable faster growth with less lattice rotation.

Concepts: Electron, Electron microscope, Nuclear fusion, Materials science, Transmission electron microscopy, Surface, Tungsten, Fusion power


Evidence is shown of the capability of non-axisymmetrical conducting structures in the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) to guarantee the passive stabilization of the n = 0 MHD unstable mode. Suitable numerical modeling of the experiments allows a clear interpretation of the phenomenon. This demonstration and the availability of computational tools able to describe the effect of 3D conductors will have a huge impact on the design of future fusion devices, in which the conducting structures closest to plasma will be highly segmented.

Concepts: Mathematics, Magnetohydrodynamics, Chemistry, Nuclear fusion, Plasma, Fusion power, Tokamak, ITER


Self-regulation between structure and turbulence, which is a fundamental process in the complex system, has been widely regarded as one of the central issues in modern physics. A typical example of that in magnetically confined plasmas is the Low confinement mode to High confinement mode (L-H) transition, which is intensely studied for more than thirty years since it provides a confinement improvement necessary for the realization of the fusion reactor. An essential issue in the L-H transition physics is the mechanism of the abrupt “radial” electric field generation in toroidal plasmas. To date, several models for the L-H transition have been proposed but the systematic experimental validation is still challenging. Here we report the systematic and quantitative model validations of the radial electric field excitation mechanism for the first time, using a data set of the turbulence and the radial electric field having a high spatiotemporal resolution. Examining time derivative of Poisson’s equation, the sum of the loss-cone loss current and the neoclassical bulk viscosity current is found to behave as the experimentally observed radial current that excites the radial electric field within a few factors of magnitude.

Concepts: Electromagnetism, Magnetic field, Fundamental physics concepts, Magnetism, Viscosity, Faraday's law of induction, Fusion power, Tokamak