Volume 2 Issue 6, June 2006

Volume 2 Issue 6

Plasma instabilities known as edge–localized modes represent a significant challenge to the development of magnetically confined fusion as a clean, sustainable energy source. These instabilities are caused by the build–up of energy at the edge of toroidal plasmas produced in the so–called high–confinement mode, and result in the rapid discharge of energy to the walls of the chamber in which they are held. This in turn causes significant erosion of the walls, requiring their frequent replacement, which could severely limit the operation and viability of any future fusion reactor. But Todd Evans and colleagues may have found a solution. By weakly perturbing the edge of the magnetic field that confines a fusion plasma in a way that causes the field lines to become chaotic, these catastrophic modes can be all but eliminated.

Article by Evans et al | News and Views by Alberto Loarte




  • Commentary |

    In less than two years, a directive will come into force throughout the European Union that defines safety limits on time-varying magnetic fields — with implications for experimental practices in several areas of physics.

    • David G. Norris


Books and Arts

Research Highlights

News and Views

  • News & Views |

    Observing coherent coupling between two quantum objects in the solid state is hard enough at millikelvin temperatures. Now, this has been achieved at room temperature — using nitrogen defects in diamond — opening up an avenue to practical quantum computing.

    • John J. L. Morton
  • News & Views |

    Many solar physicists expect the peak sunspot activity during the next solar cycle to be at its weakest in almost a century. A recent prediction to the contrary could turn this prevailing wisdom on its head.

    • Y.-M. Wang
    •  & N. R. Sheeley Jr
  • News & Views |

    Plasma instabilities known as edge-localized modes present a significant challenge to the development of next-generation fusion reactors. But by inducing small perturbations in the magnetic fields that confine fusion plasmas, such instabilities could become a thing of the past.

    • Alberto Loarte
  • News & Views |

    When it comes to information processing within and between biological cells, diffusion plays an important role. However, the pace with which messages are transmitted could be much faster than the messenger molecules move.

    • Pieter Rein ten Wolde
    •  & Sorin Tănase-Nicola
  • News & Views |

    Despite the complexity of the processes involved, the statistics of the tropical rain rate are remarkably similar to those of critical phenomena near continuous phase transitions in other — much smaller — physical systems.

    • Akio Arakawa
  • News & Views |

    The challenge to measure the quantum-mechanical mixing between particle and antiparticle states for a particular type of meson is at last being met — but as yet, alas, reveals no exotic physics.

    • Roger Jones
  • News & Views |

    Trapped atomic Fermi gases currently provide models of neutron stars, high-temperature superconductors, and even the quark–gluon plasma that comprised the early universe. The ability to produce these important systems on a chip could also open the way to their practical use.

    • John E. Thomas