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Friday, September 29, 2006

China Enters The Fusion Club

This is fascinating. The shape of things to come?

Scientists on Thursday carried out China's first successful test of an experimental fusion reactor, powered by the process that fuels the sun, a research institute spokeswoman said.

China, the United States and other governments are pursuing fusion research in hopes that it could become a clean, potentially limitless energy source. Fusion produces little radioactive waste, unlike fission, which powers conventional nuclear reactors.

Beijing is eager for advances, both for national prestige and to reduce its soaring consumption of imported oil and dirty coal.

The test by the government's Institute of Plasma Physics was carried out on a Tokamak fusion device in the eastern city of Hefei, said Cheng Yan, a spokeswoman at the institute.

China is a partner in the ITER reactor, along with the European Union, the United States, Japan, Russia, India and South Korea.

A Tokamak reactor uses a doughnut-shaped magnetic field to contain the hot gas.

Several countries have produced plasma using a Tokamak or similar device, said Gabriel Marbach, deputy head of fusion research at the ITER facility. He said producing plasma was only one step toward the fusion that ITER aims to perform, and that the project could be helped by the Chinese experiments.

"It was important for China to show that it is part of the club, and that adds value to its participation in ITER," Marbach said.

In an unrelated, but equally interesting, piece of news Vodaphone have announced they are about to launch a 3G 'own brand' handset, and guess who is doing the manufacturing, why China's Huawei, of course.

Vodafone has joined the own-brand phone club, launching the first device to bear its name today.

The 3G clamshell device, the Vodafone 710, is manufactured by Chinese hardware company Huawei and will be sold across Europe from early next month. A Vodafone spokesman declined to give pricing details, although the phone is likely to be aimed at the lower end of the market including pre-pay.

According to Vodafone, the device is designed to encourage consumers to try out new data services, including its mobile telly and radio services and portal. Data services have become the next great white hope for the operators to boost their ARPU (average revenue per user) although UK networks continue to struggle with encouraging users to take up services beyond SMS and MMS.

Vodaphone recently launched a flat-rate broadband internet connection here in Spain, and next month I am planning to test out the service. The experts say we spend far too much time indoors, so if this works I will be blogging this winter from my own little 'secret spot' in the Gaudi (Güell) Park here in Barcelona, since the park is just a brisk ten minute walk from where I live.

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