In a gleaming research lab in Germany’s northeastern corner, researchers are preparing to switch on a fusion device called a stellarator, the largest ever built. The €1 billion machine, known as Wendelstein 7-X looks a bit like Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, towed in for repairs after a run-in with the Imperial fleet. Stellarators have long been dark horses in fusion energy research but the Dali-esque devices have many attributes that could make them much better prospects for a commercial fusion power plant than the more popular tokamaks: Once started, stellarators naturally purr along in a steady state and they are not prone to the potentially metal-bending magnetic disruptions that plague tokamaks. Unfortunately they are devilishly hard to build.
To read the full story, see the 23 October issue of Science.