Exotic Matter [Plasma] Uncovered in the Sun’s Atmosphere

Thanks to Sam for sharing this article from ScienceDaily.com

Title: Exotic matter uncovered in the sun’s atmosphere
Date: May 24, 2019
Source: Trinity College Dublin
Summary: Scientists have announced a major new finding about how matter behaves in the extreme conditions of the sun’s atmosphere. Their work has shed new light on the exotic but poorly understood ‘fourth state of matter,’ known as plasma, which could hold the key to developing safe, clean and efficient nuclear energy generators on Earth.
Journal Reference: Eoin P. Carley, Laura A. Hayes, Sophie A. Murray, Diana E. Morosan, Warren Shelley, Nicole Vilmer, Peter T. Gallagher. Loss-cone instability modulation due to a magnetohydrodynamic sausage mode oscillation in the solar corona. Nature Communications, 2019; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10204-1
Link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190524094320.htm


Studying the behaviour of plasmas on the Sun allows for a comparison of how they behave on Earth, where much effort is now under way to build magnetic confinement fusion reactors. These are nuclear energy generators that are much safer, cleaner and more efficient than their fission reactor cousins that we currently use for energy today.

Professor at DIAS and collaborator on the project, Peter Gallagher, said: “Nuclear fusion is a different type of nuclear energy generation that fuses plasma atoms together, as opposed to breaking them apart like fission does. Fusion is more stable and safer, and it doesn’t require highly radioactive fuel; in fact, much of the waste material from fusion is inert helium.”

“The only problem is that nuclear fusion plasmas are highly unstable. As soon as the plasma starts generating energy, some natural process switches off the reaction. While this switch-off behaviour is like an inherent safety switch — fusion reactors cannot form runaway reactions — it also means the plasma is difficult to maintain in a stable state for energy generation. By studying how plasmas become unstable on the Sun, we can learn about how to control them on Earth.”