Nuclear fusion offers the potential for safe, clean and abundant energy sources.
This process, which also occurs in sunlight, involves plasma, a liquid made up of charged particles, being heated to a very high temperature until the atoms coalesce, releasing a lot of energy.
One of the challenges to performing this reaction on Earth is the dynamic nature of the plasma, which must be controlled to reach the required temperature that allows fusion to take place. Now researchers at the University of Washington have developed a method that capitalizes on advances in the computer game industry: It uses a gaming graphics card, or GPU, to run a control system for their prototype smelting reactor.
The team published these results on May 11 at Scientific Instrument Study.
“You need this level of speed and accuracy with plasmas because they have complex dynamics that evolve at very high speeds. If you can’t follow them, or if you mispredict how the plasma reacts, they have a nasty habit of going in that direction. wrong very quickly, “said co -author Chris Hansen, a UW senior research scientist in the aeronautics and astronauts department.
“A lot of apps try to operate in areas where the system is pretty static. The most you have to do is ‘push’ something back,” Hansen said. “In our lab, we’re working to develop methods to keep plasma actively in the place we want in a more dynamic system.”
The UW team’s experimental reactors generate their own magnetic fields entirely inside the plasma, making them potentially smaller and cheaper than other reactors that use external magnetic fields.
“By adding a magnetic field to the plasma, you can move and operate it without having to‘ touch ’the plasma,” Hansen said. “For example, northern light occurs when plasma moving from the sun enters the Earth’s magnetic field, which captures it and causes it to flow downward toward the poles. When it touches the atmosphere, charged particles emit light.”
The UW team’s prototype reactor heats the plasma to about 1 million degrees Celsius (1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit). This is much lower than the 150 million degrees Celsius needed for consolidation, but hot enough to learn the concept.
Here, plasma is formed in three injectors on the device and then these merge and naturally arranged into a donut -shaped object, like a smoke ring. This plasma lasts only a few -thousandths of a second, which is why teams need to have high -speed methods to control what happens.
Previously, researchers have used slower or less user -friendly technologies to program their control systems. So the team switched to Tesla’s NVIDIA GPU, which is designed for machine learning applications.
“GPUs give us access to a huge amount of computing power,” said lead author Kyle Morgan, a UW research scientist in the aeronautics and astronautics department. “This level of performance is driven by the computer gaming industry and, more recently, machine learning, but these graphics cards provide a very good platform for handling plasma as well.”
By using graphics cards, the team was able to detail how plasmas enter reactors, giving researchers a more accurate view of what happens as a plasma form – and ultimately potentially allowing the team to create longer -lived plasmas that operate closer to the conditions needed for controlled fusion forces.
“The biggest difference is for the future,” Hansen said. “This new system allows us to try out newer and more advanced algorithms that can enable better control, which can open up a world of new applications for plasma and fusion technologies.”
The origin of bifurcated current sheets is described
KD Morgan et al, high -speed feedback control of oscillating magnetic helix injectors using a graphics processing unit, Scientific Instrument Study (2021). DOI: 10.1063 / 5.0044805
Provided by the University of Washington
Excerpts: The gaming graphics card enables faster and more accurate combined energy experimental control (2021, July 22) retrieved on July 22, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-07-gaming-graphics-card-faster-precise. html
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