Scientists have successfully tested the world’s strongest high temperature superconducting (HTS) magnet, which eliminates one of the main technological challenges to producing energy from nuclear fusion, in what is being hailed as a major scientific triumph. Nuclear fusion is the process of fusing two atoms together to produce massive amounts of energy, which will help us gain endless energy.
The Sun, which fuses Hydrogen atoms to form Helium at its core and generates a vast quantity of heat and light energy, is the best example of a natural fusion reactor. However, because of numerous technical constraints, recreating the procedure on Earth has remained a pipe dream thus far.
Heating tiny atoms in a plasma state, which may reach temperatures of up to 150 million degrees Celsius, much higher than that of large stars, is one of the most difficult tasks.
This heating procedure necessitates a tremendous amount of energy, but it has been accomplished in the laboratory. What’s really difficult is keeping this superhot plasma contained and from colliding with solid material in the reaction equipment.
Using powerful magnets to contain plasma fuel and electric current to spike the temperature and generate heat that can be captured to make electricity is one of the most promising ways to do so. Until now, it hasn’t been possible to make such powerful magnets that don’t take up a lot of space.
The invention of a high temperature superconducting (HTS) magnet by a team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in partnership with Commonwealth Fusion Systems, looks to be altering that.
The HTS will be utilized in a donut-shaped device called a Tokamak that will likely be at the heart of nuclear fusion reactors in the near future, according to reports. Another significant benefit of the new HTS magnet is that it is smaller than its low-temperature superconductor predecessor.
Because of the size benefit, it may be placed into a much smaller device, saving money and speeding up development.
What’s Next for Fusion on Earth Now That a Key Issue Has Been Solved?
The HTS magnet, according to scientists, is a watershed moment that will pave the way for the world’s transition to clean, inexhaustible energy. The breakthrough technique will now be used in the SPARC, a compact, high-field, net fusion energy device in development that aspires to reach the coveted goal of fusion gain – creating more energy than is required for the fusion reaction to begin.
The SPARC project, which is expected to be operational in 2025, is expected to provide 50-100 MW of fusion power. The ultimate goal is to show that the technology employed in SPARC is viable and that it can be utilized to build an economical, robust, and small fusion reactor.
Nuclear fusion is a cleaner, more sustainable, and essentially infinite source of energy than the fission technique currently utilized in nuclear power plants. Unlike the exceedingly dangerous radioactive fuel used in fission, nuclear fusion uses seawater as its fuel source and produces no poisonous waste.
The fuel is inexpensive and almost limitless, the carbon footprint is minimal, there are no threats of catastrophic events such as a reactor meltdown, and the energy output is significantly higher. In fact, nuclear fusion science is being hailed as the way forward for colonizing not just the Earth, but also the moon and other planets.