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  • Cryostat thermal shield | A "strong back" for a fragile component

    The lower cylinder thermal shield is a large silver-plated component, circular in shape and five metres tall, which fits inside the depression in the cryostat b [...]

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  • Diagnostic shielding | B4C ceramic bricks prove their worth

    A number of materials can effectively shield diagnostic equipment from the neutron flux coming from the plasma. To find the best one, the diagnostics team at IT [...]

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  • Image of the week | The cryostat top lid, batch after batch

    Batch after batch, the elements for the top lid of the ITER cryostat keep arriving from India. As of today, 7 out of the 12 required segments have been delivere [...]

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  • Cooling water system | The tanks within a tank

    Deep inside the bowels of the Tokamak Building, the entrance to one of most spectacular rooms of the whole installation resembles that of a broom cupboard. [...]

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  • ITER assembly | Last major assembly contract signed

    One year after finalizing two major machine assembly contracts, the ITER Organization has chosen the contractors who will carry out assembly and installation ac [...]

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Of Interest

See archived entries

Fiction

"Steampunk" fusion machine travels in time

Ever since a "Mr Fusion" device appeared on Doc's time-travelling DeLorean in the first opus of the Back to the Future trilogy (1985), fusion energy has exerted a fascination on the film industry. Countless productions, from The Saint (1997) to the 2014 blockbuster Interstellar have featured fusion machines that are either central or accessory to the plot. Travelers, a Netflix series that premiered in December 2016, offers the latest example in this trend—except that an actual, real-life fusion machine plays the part of an antimatter device used to deflect an incoming asteroid.

In the Netflix series ''Travelers,'' the strange-looking machine developped by General Fusion plays the part of an anti-matter device whose energy, fed to a laser, deflects an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. (Click to view larger version...)
In the Netflix series ''Travelers,'' the strange-looking machine developped by General Fusion plays the part of an anti-matter device whose energy, fed to a laser, deflects an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
Neither a tokamak nor a stellarator nor even a zeta-pinch, the machine developed by General Fusion, a private fusion venture on the outskirts of Vancouver, Canada, is based on an unconventional approach. It uses steam-driven pistons to compress the plasma and heat it to fusion conditions. As a result, the device has a most unusual appearance that is sometimes described as steampunk—19th century technology and aesthetics set in a futuristic context.

Coming across images of General Fusion's machine on the company's website, the series' producers, also based in Vancouver, were immediately inspired: the strange-looking device, with its array of steel pistons jutting from a central sphere wrapped in aluminium foil, could pass perfectly for a fictional antimatter apparatus.

Having developed its ''sub-scale first generation compression technology testbed,'' General Fusion is presently working on the design of a sub-breakeven demonstration plant. (Click to view larger version...)
Having developed its ''sub-scale first generation compression technology testbed,'' General Fusion is presently working on the design of a sub-breakeven demonstration plant.
Having completed their experimental campaign on the "steampunk" device, the General Fusion team made their workshop available to the Travelers production. A few props were added and—for a couple of days—a team of special agents from the post-apocalyptic future engaged in shootouts, personality transfers and other transforming acts that make up the gist of the series.

As for the future, the General Fusion team is presently working on the design of a demonstration plant—"our equivalent of JET"—whose objective is to "show that the technology works and is ready to scale to a power producing pilot plant" ... a giant step from the steampunk device featured in the series.


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