The machine that orchestrates this plasma-on-plasma violence is something of a monster, 23 meters long and 11 meters wide, studded with dials and gauges and overgrown with steel piping and thick loose hanks of black spaghetti cable. Officially known as C-2U, it’s almost farcically complicated–it looks less like a fusion reactor than it does like a Hollywood fantasy of a fusion reactor. It sits inside a gigantic warehouse section of Tri Alpha’s Orange County office building surrounded by racks of computers that control it and more racks of computers that process the vast amounts of information that pour out of it–it has over 10,000 engineer control points that monitor the health of the machine, plus over 1,000 physics diagnostic channels pumping out experimental data. For every five millionths of a second it operates it generates about a gigabyte of data.
In August, Tri Alpha announced that its machine had generated some very interesting data. So far the company’s primary focus has been on the long-enough problem, rather than the hot-enough part; stabilizing the plasma is generally considered the tougher piece in this two-piece puzzle. Now Binderbauer believes that they’ve done it: in June the reactor proved able to hold its plasma stable for 5 milliseconds.
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