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News & Media

Latest ITER Newsline

  • Cryostat | As clean as a freshly minted coin

    Before it is encased in its protective cocoon and moved to temporary storage, the cryostat upper cylinder must be cleaned. The operation is both low-tech and es [...]

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  • Top management | Alain Bécoulet, Head of Engineering

    When Alain Bécoulet embraced plasma physics back in the mid-1980s as a student at France's prestigious École Normale Supérieure, he did it for two reasons: one [...]

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  • Science | New steady state analysis

    Recent research shows it should be possible to reach steady-state fusion production in ITER with the baseline mix of heating and current drive systems, in parti [...]

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  • Image of the week | Like dancers in a vertical ballet

    Of all the movements of workers and equipment in the Assembly Hall, these are the most gracious... Like ballet dancers on a vertical stage, two workers are b [...]

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  • Cryostat base | Grand opening soon

    Picture a giant soup plate, 30 metres in diameter, slowing descending into a deep concrete cylinder. Track the near imperceptible movement of the double overhea [...]

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Of Interest

See archived entries

Conference

Fun-filled vacuum

The science of ITER is not simple. But with a bit of imagination (and a dose of humour) a way can be found to convey the most complex physics notions to a public of non-specialists.

As no horse was available in the ITER amphitheatre, the re-enactment of the famous 1654 ''Magdeburg hemispheres'' experiment was conducted with two ITER volunteers. (Click to view larger version...)
As no horse was available in the ITER amphitheatre, the re-enactment of the famous 1654 ''Magdeburg hemispheres'' experiment was conducted with two ITER volunteers.
Last week, as a large number of staff members were assembled to attend the fourth presentation in a new ITER technology series, Vacuum Section leader Robert Pearce demonstrated that vacuum—the presentation's theme—not only could be made "understandable" but could also be a lot of fun.

One of the highlights of his presentation was a reenactment of the famous 1654 "Magdeburg hemispheres" demonstration, when a German scientist pumped air out of two joined copper hemispheres and had two teams of 15 horses try to separate them by pulling in opposite directions.

The ITER vacuum team members demonstrated that vacuum not only could be made ''understandable'' but could also be a lot of fun. Pictured here are Liam Worth, vacuum design and construction officer (foreground) and Silvio Giors, vacuum cryo-pumping engineer. (Click to view larger version...)
The ITER vacuum team members demonstrated that vacuum not only could be made ''understandable'' but could also be a lot of fun. Pictured here are Liam Worth, vacuum design and construction officer (foreground) and Silvio Giors, vacuum cryo-pumping engineer.
As no horses were available in the ITER amphitheatre, the experience was conducted with two volunteers: head of ITER Project Control Office Hans-Henrich Altfeld and cooling water engineer Fabio Somboli.

But like the horses of 364 years ago—and despite much pulling, puffing and panting—they were unable to overcome the atmospheric pressure that keeps the spheres attached to one another. (At this point of the presentation we learn that the atmospheric pressure comes from the gravitational force of the air molecules.)

Close to eight years ahead of schedule, ITER's First Plasma was produced last week in the Headquarters amphitheatre ... Pictured here: Vacuum Section leader Robert Pearce (left) and Silvio Giors. (Click to view larger version...)
Close to eight years ahead of schedule, ITER's First Plasma was produced last week in the Headquarters amphitheatre ... Pictured here: Vacuum Section leader Robert Pearce (left) and Silvio Giors.
There were other very interesting facts to glean from Pearce's presentation—that an absolute vacuum cannot exist even in the deepest and darkest outer space; that vacuum can boil and freeze water simultaneously; and that extremely cold surfaces coated with finely ground coconut charcoal are perfect for imprisoning helium particles.

But the most popular moment of the show was the production of a plasma, created by injecting argon gas into a small vacuum chamber equipped with a magnet, and running a current.

And there we had it: ITER's First Plasma close to eight years ahead of schedule. Not inside the Tokamak vacuum vessel as expected but onstage in the Headquarters amphitheatre ...



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