Measurement and Testing

What is Plasma Fuel?

Sep 18 2017 Read 1105 Times

Scientists are always looking at ways to make us less reliant on fossil fuels. The likes of petrol and diesel have been the go to fuel source for well over a century, but – as we know – their supply is far from unlimited. One recent development, which scientists are particularly excited about, is the concept of plasma fuel. Sounds cool, right? Read on for an introduction to plasma fuel and how it works.

Looking to the sun for energy

Where should you look to for unlimited energy? How about the centre of our solar system? The sun, of course. Solar power, firstly, is the fastest growing renewable energy source in the world. It contributed over 20% of global power growth in 2016 alone, but still has so much potential for further development as the sun emits thousands of times more energy that the world’s total demand.

But there’s also potential when scientists look at how the sun generates this energy. Namely, fusion. To recreate this, scientists use extreme heat, magnetic fields and high pressure to fuse together the nuclei of lighter elements. In doing this, they create heavier elements and release energy.

So, where does plasma fuel come into it? Atoms are fused together to create new elements in specially built reactors, which can harness the energy produced from the reaction. To force this reaction, scientists have to super-heat the gas to a plasma state – as well as applying high pressure, squeezing atoms together.

Making plasma fuel better

Recently, there has been something of a breakthrough with plasma fuel. Traditionally, this it’s made up of two ion species – deuterium and either hydrogen or helium-3. However, a new approach from MIT uses three ion species – deuterium, hydrogen and a small amount of helium-3. They focus the energy on helium-3, which heats to even higher energies.

“These higher energy ranges are in the same range as activated fusion products,” says Dr John Wright, who worked on the breakthrough.To be able to create such energetic ions in a non-activated device – not doing a huge amount of fusion – is beneficial, because we can study how ions with energies comparable to fusion reaction products behave, how well they would be confined”

These developments are a promising step towards a limitless energy supply. However, for the time being, it’s important to improve the production process for fuels we have access to. Find out how a new product solution helps to provide quick and accurate fuel analysis in the article ‘VUV PIONA+ Improves Accuracy of Hydrocarbon Reporting in Gasoline’.

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