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Infrared devices image reactor interior

28 Feb 2003

The CEA has unveiled the first infrared images taken inside a nuclear fusion reactor.

The French Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA) has released the first infrared images taken by a network of twelve cameras inside a nuclear fusion reactor. The images show the temperature variations and integrity of components that are facing the plasma contained within the reactor.

Fusion involves the interaction of two light atomic nuclei. For example, deuterium and tritium can be "fused" to form helium and a neutron. Fusion produces energy because the mass of the final state is less than that of the initial state. The mass deficit is transformed into energy during the reaction.

The images were taken at the CEA's TORE SUPRA tokamak reactor in Provence, France. Within the reactor, a series of superconducting torrodial magnets generate a permanent magnetic field that contains the hot, dense plasma required for fusion.

The cameras were developed by French infrared specialist CEDIP Infrared Systems. Pierre Potet of CEDIP explains that the infrared cameras show the temperature of plasma-facing components. "The plasma temperature can go up to 2000°C and can damage the internal coating of the reactor," he told Optics.org. "The infrared cameras are used to monitor the temperature changes."

Because of these extreme conditions, the cameras observe the plasma remotely via a set of IR endoscopes that are installed through the reactor wall. The images were taken using CEDIP's JADE infrared technology, which can operate in a strong magnetic field and acquire data across a 1400°C temperature range.

The cameras have acquired images of critical components within the reactor at wavelengths between 1.5 and 5 microns. "This is where there is maximum energy in the infrared bands," said Potet.

Jacqueline Hewett is news reporter on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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