National Academies Press: OpenBook
Suggested Citation:"INTRODUCTION." National Research Council. 1995. Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4936.

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MAGNETIC CONFINEMENT FUSION 71 4 Magnetic Confinement Fusion INTRODUCTION Plasma science has played a major role in magnetic fusion research from its inception and, in many ways, the quest for controlled fusion has been crucial in the development of modern plasma science. In a fusion reactor, a mixture of deuterium and tritium is ionized and the resulting plasma, which is confined by a magnetic "bottle," is heated to temperatures of the order of a few hundred million degrees centigrade. As illustrated in Figure 3.1, the deuterium and tritium nuclei would fuse upon colliding, thereby forming helium nuclei and very energetic (~14-MeV) neutrons. These neutrons may be captured in a thermalizing blanket and the energy used for electric power generation. The needs of magnetic fusion research required a far better understanding of collective interactions in plasmas than existed in the 1950s and 1960s. After the initial series of experiments, of particular concern was the gross magnetohydrodynamic stability of magnetic confinement configurations, the anomalous transport of energy and particles, and the heating and fueling of confined plasmas to reactor-relevant temperatures and densities. Some of the fundamental properties of collective interactions can be probed in relatively simple plasma configurations, the kind of basic experimental plasma research discussed in Chapter 8. However, many collective phenomena can be observed only in hot and dense plasmas in complex magnetic field geometries. The investigation of such phenomena required the development of new diagnostics to probe the properties of hot and dense plasmas, giving birth to experimental plasma research in fusion grade plasmas. Progress in all of these research areas will be required for ultimate success in

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Plasma science is the study of ionized states of matter. This book discusses the field's potential contributions to society and recommends actions that would optimize those contributions. It includes an assessment of the field's scientific and technological status as well as a discussion of broad themes such as fundamental plasma experiments, theoretical and computational plasma research, and plasma science education.

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