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News & Media

Latest ITER Newsline

  • FEC2020 | Seeking sponsors for 28th IAEA Fusion Energy Conference

    For only the third time since 1961, the International Atomic Energy Agency's Fusion Energy Conference will be taking place in France—hosted jointly by the Frenc [...]

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  • Nuclear safety | Under constant scrutiny

    Because one of the elements involved in the fusion reaction is the radioactive isotope tritium, and because the hydrogen fusion reaction itself generates a high [...]

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  • Power conversion | Alien structures and strange contraptions

    There are places in ITER that seem to belong to another world, places full of alien structures and strange contraptions. The feeling—a mixture of awe and puzzle [...]

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  • Tokamak Complex | A changing landscape

    For the past three years, the view from the top of the highest worksite crane has not changed much. Inside of the Tokamak Complex, 80 metres below, concrete gal [...]

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  • Ion cyclotron heating | How to pump 20 MW of power into 1 gram of plasma

    To power the ion cyclotron system, the ITER Organization and its partners are designing not only new antennas, which will be housed in the tokamak vessel, but a [...]

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Of Interest

See archived entries

Colour me a plasma

Phil Dooley, EFDA

Each element has its own colour, corresponding to the gaps between its electrons' energy levels. The human classification of today's plasma colour as salmon, or peach, or burnt sienna is quite irrelevant. But a fun discussion to have, nonetheless. (Click to view larger version...)
Each element has its own colour, corresponding to the gaps between its electrons' energy levels. The human classification of today's plasma colour as salmon, or peach, or burnt sienna is quite irrelevant. But a fun discussion to have, nonetheless.
Something that surprises many people when they see their first plasma pulse on a screen in the control room, is that the plasma is invisible. There is a bit of glow around the edges, and the divertor—the bottom area of the vessel where the plasma touches the tiles—glows red hot. But the core of the plasma, at something like 100 million degrees, is completely transparent.

This is a desirable characteristic — it means that there is no energy being lost via radiation. It comes about because the atoms of the hydrogen fuel have been completely stripped of their electrons, or ionised. When attached to a nucleus at lower temperatures, these electrons absorb and emit light as they jump between the energy levels, but once they are detached that mechanism is disabled, so no light is absorbed or emitted.

To become this transparent, of course all the electrons must be detached. There is a pink glow around the edges because the plasma is cooler and so some electrons are attached, but generally for deuterium and tritium atoms, their single electron is easily removed. But for all other elements, with more electrons, it is harder to remove every last one and therefore to completely prevent energy leaking out through in the form of radiation.

Read the full article at EFDA.


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