On 24 January, 6.2 Physics students were fortunate enough to travel to the largest laboratory for particle research to date – the Conseil Européen Pour La Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) in Geneva. It provides physicists with the ability to accelerate particles to approximately 1.08 billion kilometres per hour, while then observing the results of their collisions.
The first day saw us visiting the Red Cross Museum, an exhibition dedicated to the international humanitarian organisation that brings relief to people in the event of war or natural disaster. In the evening, we visited the History of Science Museum in Lake Side Park. On display were over 800 instruments, mainly used by Swiss scientists, dating back to the 17th century.
To fend off the global warming crisis, we need to appeal to the hottest place on earth. The sun’s core is 10 million degrees, but in the Joint European Torus (JET) at Culham, the doughnut-shaped plasma in the reactor consistently reaches temperatures of over 100 million degrees to initiate nuclear fusion between hydrogen isotopes and release enormous quantities of energy. The hydrogen is sourced from seawater, and there are no harmful waste products. What is not to like? Unfortunately, it’s fiendishly difficult to achieve.
The Sixth Form physicists visited JET last week, for an inspiring tour and lectures. The scientists and engineers explained the current developments of this futuristic technology, which has come a long way since its inception in 1983, and has inspired the next generation of fusion reactors, driving the plasma science and fusion research. Ground-breaking and innovative engineering solutions are necessary for the magnetic containment, keeping the super-heated plasma just metres from the surrounding vacuum at almost zero, to harness this potentially limitless resource.