From 18 May to 7 October 2010 about 105,000 people – most of them young people and school classes – visited the “MS Wissenschaft” which is an exhibition ship operated by the German public relations organisation “Science in Dialogue” under the umbrellaof the Federal Ministry of Education and Science. Travelling all of the major rive rs in Germany and Austria, the ship toured 43 cities, from Berlin to Vienna, and addressed almost all aspects of our energy future. Fusion research, which works towards providing a nearly unlimited source of energy, was also on board:

Confining a fusion plasma.

Forschungszentrum Jülich exhibited an “Interactive tokamak”. This portable education device simulates a fusion plasma using a small glass ring which contains a mixture of helium and argon gas. A hidden electromagnetic ring antenna ignites the plasma. Special care has been taken to make the device robust to ensure a “steady state operation in a rough environment”. Visitors can simulate the plasma confinement by rotating a set of four very strong permanent magnets along the inner side of the glass ring. The effect will be enhanced in the future by implementing even stronger magnets.

What does it take to build a fusion power plant?

Visitors were able to explore the questions research needs to solve in order to realise fusion power by playing an interactive computer game, which IPP supplied. The young players had to match the plasma particle movement  to the frequency of heating waves in order to raise the plasma temperature. They created fusion by capturing quickly moving deuterium ions and, in the end, they built a complete fusion power plant. The guides on board the ship and the organisers gave the game top marks, because “it was very useful, attractive and understandable”.

Ralph P. Schorn, Christine Rüth