Background: Over the past decade and half, physicists in United States and Canada have launched at least half a dozen companies to pursue alternative designs for fusion reactors. This week’s news feature looks into the most promising technologies and technical struggles scientists need to face.
Design challenge: The aim for the graphic was to explain the design of three basic fusion reactor alternatives: tokamak, spheromak and colliding beam reactor. Editors believed it would be also helpful for the reader to include simple diagrams showing main nuclear fusion processes that are mentioned in the story.
Since some of these reactors are still in the concept stage it was important for the illustration not to go into too much detail and instead explain the technology in a very schematic way. We also wanted to make sure these illustrations would be visually uniform and work together as a set.
The final graphic shows a simplified 3D cutout of each reactor in white with plasma inside colored yellow. Additionally, hot metal has been marked red, magnet coils in light blue and fuel injection as blue arrows.
We considered showing the direction of magnetic fields (that trap hot plasma) but it proved to be a challenge. Magnetic field lines would need to spiral around the plasma vortex (or hot metal vortex in general fusion) and we soon realised they would clash with other important information. We decided that showing the direction of plasma movement is more crucial whereas magnetic field can be easier included in the caption text.