Posted on: 11th March 2013

      600 people listening breathlessly, screaming ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ during the experiments.

This image shows one of the many amazing moments from the Fusion Road Show, run by EFDA Associate in the Netherlands, DIFFER. In keeping with the dramatic nature of the show, the explanation for this photo will not be revealed yet…

The Road Show has been running for 14 years. It was developed at DIFFER by Niek Lopes Cardozo and these days is also delivered by Eindhoven Technical University in the southern provinces of the Netherlands.

The show is 45 minutes long and tells the story of the world’s energy requirements, and how they might be addressed. It considers all the energy options, but the emphasis is on fusion. It begins with the fuel and the heating, then moves on to plasma control and materials, and the shape of the machine, including movies of a working tokamak – JET. It  finishes with the future promises and possibilities of ITER.

During its 14 year life the show has been to well over 100 schools throughout Netherlands and Belgium, seeing up to 7000 students in a year, as well as regularly having a stand in the Lowlands music festival, which welcomes several thousand of the total 50 000 festival-goers.

Arian Visser in action during the Fusion Road Show

Arian Visser in action during the Fusion Road Show

The Road Show received a major upgrade in 2010, with a professional director’s assistance. DIFFER’s main presenter of the Road Show, Arian Visser relates: “The show was getting a bit boring – an interesting talk with sometimes an experiment. Now we have a stunning show with drama, surprising moments and a nice distribution of information interspersed with experiments movies and so on. The students stay interested until the end; the new show really triggers many more questions and enthusiastic contributions, we need at least 15 minutes afterwards for the questions.”

One of the changes in the 2010 revamp was the inclusion of some dramatic plasma physics demonstrations, carried out in a microwave oven. Firstly some compact fluoroscent light bulbs are put into the oven – when it is turned on they light up, demonstrating the efficacy of microwaves for creating and heating plasma. Next some toothpicks are set alight, and put into the oven, as Arian Visser explains:  “When it is turned on balls of plasma start to fly around. It makes a nice sound as they shoot upwards!”. This is the image shown above.

Mr Visser has to think before nominating the best show he has done. “In Antwerp University in Belgium, during their Fusion Days,” he decides. “During these days about 5000 scholars from Vlaanderen and the south part of the Netherlands visit, and along with our colleagues from Eindhoven we deliver show after show in the largest lecture theatre. It is great to present the show to 600 people at once, see them listening breathless and screaming ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ during the experiments!”

The Dutch Institute For Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER) is the Dutch signatory to EFDA.