October 27, 2021

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MIT announces a breakthrough.  The first fusion reactor to generate net power may be built within 4 years

MIT announces a breakthrough. The first fusion reactor to generate net power may be built within 4 years

| Astronomy / Physics

After three years of work, MIT engineers were able to increase the power of a high-temperature superconducting electromagnet for fusion reactors to a record 20 Tesla. same Make the strongest magnets of this type. This achievement will allow the construction of the first fusion power plant capable of generating more energy than it consumes itself.

Gretchen Ertel, CFS/MIT-PSFC, 2021

Just 3 months ago inform usAfter ten years of design and production work, General Atomics is ready to deliver the first central solenoid, one of the world’s most powerful magnets. It will be at the heart of the ITER fusion reactor. The central solenoid is the main US contribution to this installation. It will generate a magnetic field of 13 Tesla, which is 280,000 times greater than the Earth’s magnetic field. MIT magnets generate a magnetic field that is 50% stronger.

Fusion reactors generate energy by nuclear fusion, in which lighter elements combine into heavier elements. This is the process of the sun. In many ways, fusion is the perfect source of clean energy. The amount of energy you can save will completely change the rules of the game. Fusion fuel can be obtained from water and the earth is filled with water. It is an almost inexhaustible source of energy. We just need to know how to use itSays Professor Maria Zuber, vice president for research at MIT.

The MIT scientists’ achievement gives hope for a net energy gain in the lab through nuclear fusion. This, in turn, will greatly facilitate and speed up work on this technology. Now that this powerful magnet for fusion reactors has been successfully tested, the MIT-CMS consortium will want to build the world’s first fusion power plant, known as SPARC, with a positive energy balance. The magnet mentioned above is a milestone in the way of its construction. Thanks to it, there is an opportunity to create SPARC in 4 years.

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CFS (Commonwealth Fusion Systems) is a company founded in 2018 at the Center for Plasma and Fusion Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is funded, inter alia, by the Italian company ENI, founded by Singapore-based Bill Gates Breakthrough Energy Ventures or Temasek. The company is working with the Department of Energy, MIT and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory to build a compact fusion power plant based on MIT’s ARC tokamak concept.

To understand why these magnets are so powerful in fusion reactors, you need to know that fusion requires colossal temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius and more. No solid object can withstand these temperatures. Therefore, the plasma in which the fusion will occur must be kept away from the walls of the reactor. This can be done using a strong magnetic field. And that’s what – suspended plasma in space – powerful electromagnets use.

The main innovation of the ARC project is the use of high-temperature superconductors that allow a much stronger magnetic field in a smaller space. The material that enables the creation of such a magnet appeared on the market only a few years ago. The ARC concept was created in 2015. The SPARC experimental reactor is expected to be half the size of a full-size ARC and will be used to test the design.

Work on nuclear fusion at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology continued for a long time. In the past year, there have been several scientific papers whose authors have reported that if such magnets can be produced as supposed, ARC-type reactors must produce more power than they consume.

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Our design uses standard plasma physics and the design and engineering assumptions of a traditional tokamak, but combines them with new magnet fabrication technology. So we did not need to innovate in several areas. Our goal was to create the right magnet and then apply what we’ve learned over the past few decadesmówi Martin Greenwald z Plasma Science and Fusion Center.

This is a great momentAdds Bob Mumgaard, CEO of CFS. We now have a platform that, thanks to decades of research on these types of solutions, is very advanced from a scientific point of view and at the same time very interesting from a business point of view. This will allow us to build smaller, cheaper reactors faster. Three years ago, we announced that we were building 20 Tesla magnets that would be essential for future fusion reactors. He adds that we achieved our goal without any delay.

ARC SPARC Nuclear Fusion Reactor