The MUSE Permanent Magnet Stellarator: Fusion Reactor With Off-The-Shelf Parts

<img decoding="async" data-attachment-id="674732" data-permalink="https://hackaday.com/2024/04/21/the-muse-permanent-magnet-stellarator-fusion-reactor-with-off-the-shelf-parts/muse_stellarator_components/" data-orig-file="https://hackaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/muse_stellarator_components.jpg" data-orig-size="1395,2185" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="muse_stellarator_components" data-image-description data-image-caption="

(a) The 12 permanent magnet holder subsegments. (b) The 16 planar, circular toroidal field coils are positioned inside the water-jet cut support structure. (c) The glass vacuum vessel is joined by 3D-printed low-thickness couplers. Glass ports were hot welded to the torus. (Credit: T.M. Qian et al., 2023)

” data-medium-file=”https://hackaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/muse_stellarator_components.jpg?w=255″ data-large-file=”https://hackaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/muse_stellarator_components.jpg?w=399″ class=”size-medium wp-image-674732″ src=”https://hackaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/muse_stellarator_components.jpg?w=255″ alt=”(a) The 12 permanent magnet holder subsegments. (b) The 16 planar, circular toroidal field coils are positioned inside the water-jet cut support structure. (c) The glass vacuum vessel is joined by 3D-printed low-thickness couplers. Glass ports were hot welded to the torus. (Credit: T.M. Qian et al., 2023)” width=”255″ height=”400″ srcset=”https://hackaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/muse_stellarator_components.jpg 1395w, https://hackaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/muse_stellarator_components.jpg?resize=160,250 160w, https://hackaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/muse_stellarator_components.jpg?resize=255,400 255w, https://hackaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/muse_stellarator_components.jpg?resize=399,625 399w, https://hackaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/muse_stellarator_components.jpg?resize=981,1536 981w, https://hackaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/muse_stellarator_components.jpg?resize=1308,2048 1308w” sizes=”(max-width: 255px) 100vw, 255px”>

(a) The 12 permanent magnet holder subsegments. (b) The 16 planar, circular toroidal field coils are positioned inside the water-jet cut support structure. (c) The glass vacuum vessel is joined by 3D-printed low-thickness couplers. Glass ports were hot welded to the torus. (Credit: T.M. Qian et al., 2023)

When you think of a fusion reactor like a tokamak or stellarator, you are likely to think of expensive projects requiring expensive electromagnets made out of exotic alloys, whether superconducting or not. The MUSE stellarator is an interesting study in how to take things completely in the opposite direction. Its design and construction is described in a 2023 paper by [T.M. Qian] and colleagues in the Journal of Plasma Physics. The theory is detailed in a 2020 Physical Review Letters paper by [P. Helander] and colleagues. As the head of the Stellarator Theory at the Max Planck Institute, [P. Helander] is well-acquainted with the world’s most advanced stellarator: Wendelstein 7-X.

As noted in the paper by [P. Helander] et al., the use of permanent magnets can substantially simplify the magnetic-field coils of a stellarator, which are then primarily used for the toroidal magnetic flux. This simplification is reflected in the design of MUSE, as it only has a limited number of identical toroidal field coils, with the vacuum vessel surrounded by 3D printed structures that have permanent magnets embedded in them. These magnets follow a pattern that helps to shape the plasma inside the vacuum vessel, while not requiring a power supply or (at least theoretically) cooling.

Naturally, as noted by [P. Helander] et al, a limitation of permanent magnets is their limited field strength, inability to be tuned, and demagnetization at high temperatures. This may limit the number of practical applications of this approach, but researchers at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) recently announced in a self-congratulatory article that they will  ‘soon’ commence actual plasma experiments with MUSE. The lack of (cooled) divertors will of course limit the experiments that MUSE can be used for.

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