Ethernet Communications Aids Diagnostics in Clean Fusion Experiments

Imagine a world where we could generate massive amounts of clean energy by recreating the process that powers the stars. That is the tantalising promise of nuclear fusion, which scientists around the globe are racing to turn into reality-aided by ethernet communications.

Now imagine that one of the entities contributing to overcoming these challenges is UK supplier of communications and energy measuring equipment – Brainboxes. Significantly, their Ethernet to serial devices mean the research team can monitor and adjust parameters in real time.

The process involves merging atomic nuclei to release energy that if harnessed could dramatically change our energy landscape. Evidently, the journey towards achieving controlled nuclear fusion for energy production is complex, with multiple technological challenges.

The Fusion Process

The Max-Planck-Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) concentrates its research on seven experimental nuclear fusion projects. Of these projects, Wendelstein 7-X based at Greifswald in Germany is the world’s largest Stellarator. Its objective is to investigate the suitability of the design for a working power plant.

A ring of fifty superconducting magnetic coils makes up a confinement cage. Complex calculations determine the optimal shape of each coil to reach the quality level of plasma confinement.

One of the major challenges is creating and containing the extreme conditions needed to achieve fusion. This requires heating fuel to over 100 million degrees Celsius to form plasma – a super-hot ionised state of matter. During the process, powerful magnetic fields confine and control the plasma.

Analysing and controlling the extreme plasma conditions inside Wendelstein 7-X requires an array of about fifty specialised diagnostic systems monitoring temperatures, plasma density, energy levels, impurities and more.

However, the intense environment prohibits scientists from being near the device during operations. This makes it impossible for scientists to view HMIs or screens, and so they must monitor all the diagnostics remotely.

Ethernet Communications

This is where Brainboxes and their Ethernet to Serial (ES) devices play a crucial role. Their ES-522 device transmit critical data from serial-bus only controller and diagnostic sensors over Ethernet networks.

This allows the remote monitoring of diagnostics data for analysis by scientists from a safe control room location. Furthermore, it allows the research team to monitor and adjust parameters in real time, a necessity for the success of fusion experiments.

Moreover, bridging the gap between the diagnostic ports and the control PC with Brainboxes’ Ethernet to Serial devices, saved time and allowed IPP engineers to build the diagnostic quickly and with fewer hardware requirements.

In summary, the need to establish an environmentally-sound, sustainable sources of energy is immediate. Theoretical means will not answer questions about nuclear fusion. As a matter of fact, answers can only come experimentally from functioning sites. IPP at Greifswald means that fusion power plants could start supplying real-world electricity in the second half of this century.

Brainboxes is one of the UKs foremost developers and manufacturers of industrial Ethernet communications, interfacing, and machine monitoring devices worldwide. As their leading authorised technical distributor in the UK and Ireland, we can support you integrating their products into your equipment. Contact us as we would love to hear from you.

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