For the first time, scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have successfully created hydrogen plasma, the key component to nuclear fusion, and held it in a contained environment.
Inside of a generator called the Wendelstein 7-X (W7X) stellarator, hydrogen is heated up to 180 million degrees Fahrenheit and held in place by 470 tons of superconducting, super-cooled magnets. The temperatures cause the hydrogen gas to turn into plasma, a superheated form of matter that behaves like an electromagnetic cloud.
Because of a phenomenon known as quantum tunneling, the hydrogen atoms smash into each other and fuse into helium. This is an advanced version of an experiment run on the W7X in which helium was changed into plasma and fused in 2015.
The advancement to convert hydrogen into contained hydrogen plasma is huge because it can produce the most amount of energy using elemental fusion that we known of – leaps and bounds better than helium. This is a great advancement and they are making great headway toward ignition.
Here’s a TED talk on how it works