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Max Planck Institute

— Energy

Germany's Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor produces its first flash of hydrogen plasma

Experimentation with Germany's newest fusion reactor is beginning to heat up, to temperatures of around 80 million degrees Celsius, to be precise. Having fired up the Wendelstein 7-X to produce helium plasma late last year, researchers have built on their early success to generate its first hydrogen plasma, an event they say begins the true scientific operation of the world's largest fusion stellarator.

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— Energy

First plasma from Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor

Testing of the Wendelstein 7-x stellarator has started with a bang, albeit a very very small one, with researchers switching on the experimental fusion reactor to produce its first helium plasma at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Greifswald, Germany. After almost a decade of construction work and more than a million assembly hours, the first tests have gone according to plan with the researchers to shift focus to producing hydrogen plasma after the new year.

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— Energy

Wendelstein 7-x stellarator puts new twist on nuclear fusion power

In a large complex located at Greifswald in the north-east corner of Germany, sits a new and unusual nuclear fusion reactor awaiting a few final tests before being powered-up for the very first time. Dubbed the Wendelstein 7-x fusion stellarator, it has been more than 15 years in the making and is claimed to be so magnetically efficient that it will be able to continuously contain super-hot plasma in its enormous magnetic field for more than 30 minutes at a time. If successful, this new reactor may help realize the long-held goal of continuous operation essential for the success of nuclear fusion power generation.

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— Physics

New record set for high-temperature superconductivity

With their zero electrical resistance and remarkable magnetic and thermal conductive properties, superconductors have the potential to revolutionize numerous technologies. The trouble is, they work best at cryogenic temperatures in the neighborhood of absolute zero (-273° C, -459° F). As part of the quest to come up with a room temperature superconductor, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have developed a new record-high-temperature superconductor – and it smells like rotten eggs.

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— Environment

Eyes inspire more efficient solar cell architecture

Solar cells don't at first glance have any relation to a tiny structure in the eye that makes our central vision sharp, but that tiny structure – called the fovea centralis – may be the key to a huge boost in solar cell efficiency. A team of scientists at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light took the underlying mechanisms that guide the fovea and adapted them to silicon as a surface for collecting light in solar cells. Read More
— Space

The lighter side of dark matter

In spite of substantial scientific investigation and convincing indirect evidence, dark matter still eludes direct detection and its existence essentially remains a tantalizing, but unproven, hypothesis. Notwithstanding this, nearly 85 percent of the predicted mass of the universe remains unaccounted for, and dark matter theory is still the prime contender to explain where it may be. Researchers at the University of Southampton have theorized the existence of a new "lighter" dark matter particle in an effort to help unravel the mystery. Read More
— Robotics

Scallop microbots designed to swim through your bodily fluids

In the 1960s science fiction film Fantastic Voyage, audiences thrilled to the idea of shrinking a submarine and the people inside it to microscopic dimensions and injecting it into a person’s bloodstream. At the time it was just fantasy and as fantastic an idea as its title suggested. Today, however, micro-miniature travelers in your body have come one step closer to reality. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute have been experimenting with real micro-sized robots that literally swim through your bodily fluids and could be used to deliver drugs or other medical relief in a highly-targeted way. Read More
— Space

Discovery of new molecule suggests origins of life may reside in interstellar space

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) group of radio telescopes have discovered a carbon-based molecule with a branched structure – a common feature in molecules that are required for life to form. Contained within a giant gas cloud in the star-forming region of Sagittarius B2, the molecule of isopropyl cyanide is the first hint that other complex molecules may form in space before finding their way to the surface of planets. Read More
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