Friday, April 19, 2024

Holey design bolsters solar power absorption

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) are adding tiny, Swiss-cheese-style holes to components to improve the harvesting of fusion energy from the sun, reports Tech Xplore. New computer simulations show that placing porous, sponge-like covers that cap reservoirs of liquid lithium around the inner walls of doughnut-shaped tokamak fusion facilities can absorb damaging excess heat inside the facilities. The heat can then be moved to generators to help produce electricity. Fusion combines light elements in the form of plasma—the hot, charged state of matter composed of electrons and atomic nuclei—and generates huge amounts of energy. Scientists are seeking to replicate fusion reactions on Earth for a virtually inexhaustible supply of power to generate electricity. “This is a system that could allow the harvesting of heat from the plasma,” said PPPL senior engineering analyst Andrei Khodak, lead author of a paper reporting the results in Nuclear Materials and Energy. “You can remove the energy using the liquid metal, which acts like a heat sponge. Then you can deliver the heat to a generator or other energy-converting device that converts it to electricity.”

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