Magnetic fusion devices confine hot, dense
plasma for a sufficient period of time (a few seconds) so that atomic nuclei
can fuse by overcoming their natural repulsive forces. Fusion energy reactors
must attain a very high energy density for the fusion to become self-sustaining
and generate economically significant energy gains.
Due to the coupling of ionized particles and fields, plasma systems must be treated as a coherent, interactive system and not simply as an aggregate of parts. In plasma systems, a wide variety of forces and instabilities can oppose efforts towards confinement. Nevertheless, basic research has enabled experiments to perform a million times better than devices used only 20 years ago. Today's experiments routinely produce fusion and we are now on the threshold of having "burning plasma" experiments that will allow the construction of useful fusion powers plants.
Please see Plasmas.org for more information.
International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor
National Spherical Torus Experiment
Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment
Sustained Spheromak Physics Experiment