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San José, Costa Rica || Monday Edition, July 24, 2017 || Vol. 17, No. 145
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Costa Rica becomes sixth country to make plasma capture device
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Due to the success of its plasma development project, the Instituto Técnologico de Costa Rica will build a specialized lab for plasma research by 2018.

The lab will have spaces for the study of plasma for the fusion, medicine, agriculture and industry departments.
"The entire building has two levels. The first stage will be built in an area of ​​approximately 285 square meters” explained the architect Karina Solano.

According to Ms. Solano, the capacity of the first stage will allow for 10 people and, by the end of construction should allow up to 30 people. The investment is $350,000 and the lab will be located in the southern sector of the institute's Central Campus.

On June 29, 2016, the institute performed the first discharge of high temperature plasma with an experimental device called a stellarator. The discharge lasted 4.5 seconds at a temperature of 300,000 degrees Celsius. It was the most complex research ever done in the country in the area of ​​physics.

“Plasma is the fourth state of matter, a soup of positively and negatively-charged particles," said Ivan Vargas, coordinator of the Plasma Laboratory for Fusion Energy and Applications at the institute.

The Institute developed the stellarator of Costa Rica 1 to take advantage of that state of matter as a source of clean energy.

"This device tries to reproduce the energy that is produced in the stars through a process called fusion," explained Vargas. "In stars, the force of gravity and high temperatures allow the nuclei of the atoms to merge, thus releasing energy."

Plasma confinement
                device
Instituto Técnologico de Costa Rica photo
Specialized plasma confinement device adorned with Costa Rican flag and all.

The stellarator is designed to produce and magnetically confine the plasma to more than 300,000 degrees Celsius.

"The first step is to extract all the gas that is contained in the device," explained José Asenjo, the institute's electronic engineer.

 "Then we inject the hydrogen, which is the fuel that we are going to heat at very high temperatures to convert it into plasma, then it is exposed to a microwave emission to achieve that conversion. In total, 13.76 liters of plasma are generated."

The energy of one gram of plasma is enough for the electricity of 80 households. The project has six years of research and to date over half a million dollars have been invested.

Thus, Costa Rica is the sixth country in the world to develop such a device after the United States, Japan, Germany, Australia and Spain.


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