Cartoon of a tokamak, with the plasma shown in pink. The blue coils create the strong toroidal magnetic field, while the poloidal magnetic field (shown by the green arrows) is primarily created by a toroidal current in the plasma itself. Added together these create the twisted helical magnetic field shown by the black arrows. The transformer in the center is required to drive the plasma current and the poloidal field coils (shown in grey) are used for additional stabilization (source: www.efda.org).

Bottling up the sun – the latest on our quest for fusion energy

by Jonathan Squire The human race has an energy problem. Despite continually increasing demand, we still have no truly viable way to produce energy on a necessary scale without significant environmental consequences. So what about solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, geothermal, or CCS (carbon capture and storage)? Each of these generation methods has its own disadvantages, and certainly…

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Micro-grids: a simple solution to power cuts

by Vivek Bhandari Power cuts are rare occurrences in some parts of the world and they are a daily occurrence in others. Throughout the world, people would like to avoid these power cuts and have reliable, secure and clean electricity. Micro-grids¹ are emerging as a simple and flexible technology that will help to improve power…

Figure 2 (Images adapted from TECA and Snyder et al., 2008 Nature Materials, 105-114). Thermoelectric devices have no moving parts, and transform heat into electricity through a phenomenon known as the Seebeck effect: a difference in temperature along a thermoelectric material creates a voltage, which can be used to drive electric current. The size of a thermoelectric device is scalable to the application; devices can be bigger than a person, or microscopically integrated into a microprocessor. The device on the left is roughly 3 cm in length, and consists of many pairs of thermoelectric legs, shown in detail on the right.

From trash to treasure: Making electricity from waste heat

by Michael Gaultois Governments are clamouring to secure stable energy resources for the future. Much attention is focused on developing clean, sustainable, and renewable energy sources. However, the often invisible alternative is to be more efficient with the energy we already produce. This is not to say that we won’t need more energy, but rather that…