In our never-ending quest to understand fusion and its potential use in energy production, I visited the Wendelstein 7-X fusion experiment in Greifswald run by the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik. We started out with a visit to the experiment hall, while experimentalist Matthias Hirsch gave us an overview over the machine. Next we discussed theory and modeling with Ralf Kleiber. Finally, I returned to Matthias Hirsch, and we chatted about more experimental aspects of Wendelstein. It is probably best to listen to our previous fusion episodes (22, 157 and 304) before listening to this one.
Justin and Jason wrote a nice book on fusion called The Future of Fusion Energy, and this episode is based on this book. We start out by revisiting the breakthroughs that drove progress in fusion over the decades, including understanding stars, the tokamak, superconducting magnets, supercomputers and a number of specific aspects of plasma physics. We then look at the current state of fusion research as well as where it might go.
With power generation in the grid becoming more diverse and decentralized, energy storage is becoming more and more important. Eduard Heindl‘s gravity storage is an approach to storing electrical energy as potential energy by lifting huge masses cut out of the ground. While this sounds crazy, there are lots of reasons why this makes sense. In the episode we discuss then need, the general approach, the construction process and some of the engineering challenges. We also look at the innovation process, the path from the idea to something that is ready to be built.
Superconductivity, the ability of a material to carry electrical current with zero resistance, is a surprising property of nature, which man has been able to exploit in many ways, in particular, for high-performance magnets. Those are used in magnetic resonance imagers, but also in colliders and fusion reactors. In this episode we discuss the basics of superconductivity and its uses with Pierre Bauer, a superconductor engineer at ITER.
Tidal power refers to extracting electrical energies out of the tide streams in oceans. Various techniques exist. Tocardo is a provider of axial turbines, and our guest, Pieter de Haas, is their CTO. In this episode we talk about tidal power in general, siting, the design and engineering of Tocardo’s turbines as well as the overall economic and technical trade-offs in making the turbines work over the long run.