Google has partnered with a top nuclear fusion company to create a new computer algorithm to speed up nuclear fusion experiments.
Watch our Born to Engineer film on Nuclear Fusion
The new algorithm will focus on significantly decreasing the time it takes to model plasma – the incredibly hot balls of gas which form the core of fusion energy technology.
Google Research will work with Tri Alpha Energy – a company supported by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen – to create a ‘Optometrist algorithm’.
What is an ‘Optometrist algorithm’?
An ‘Optometrist algorithm’ is a way of combining high powered computational processing and human input to find novel solutions to complex problems.
Modelling Nuclear fusion in particular is extremely complicated – the temperatures needed to release the huge amounts of energy fusion promises rely on understanding ‘non linear phenomena’ (where very small changes to the system can produce widely different outcomes).
Additionally the engineering needed to suspend the plasma is challenging.
The whole thing is beyond what we know how to do even with Google-scale computer … We boiled the problem down to ‘let’s find plasma behaviours that an expert human plasma physicist thinks are interesting, and let’s not break the machine when we’re doing it’. This was a classic case of humans and computers doing a better job together than either could have separatelyTed Baltz – Google Accelerated Science Team
Tri Alpha Energy hope that by working with Google they will be able to progress faster. The team are hoping calculations that previously took months to complete might be completed within hours.