A viable nuclear fusion reactor – one that spits out more energy than it consumes – could be here by 2025.
This is the core of seven new studies, published on September 29 Journal of plasma physics.
If a fusion reactor reaches that milestone, it can largely pave the way for clean energy.
During Fusion, Are forced together to make the nuclear nucleus heavier Atoms. When the mass of the resulting atoms is less than the mass of the atoms in their formation, the extra mass is converted into energy, releasing an extraordinary amount of light and heat. Fusion makes the sun and stars powerful Gravity Fuse in their heart Hydrogen to make Helium.
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But a vast amount of energy is required to fuse the atoms together, which is at a temperature of at least 180 million degrees Fahrenheit (100 million degrees Celsius). However, such reactions can generate far more energy than they need. At the same time, fusion is not produced Greenhouse gases Like carbon dioxide, which drives Global temperature, Nor does it produce other pollutants. And fuel for fusion – like elements Hydrogen – very full Earth To fulfill all the energy needs of humanity for millions of years.
“We all got involved in this research because we’re really trying to solve a serious global problem,” said study author Martin Greenwald, a plasma physicist at MIT and one of the leading scientists developing new reactors One. “We want to make an impact on society. We need a solution to global warming – otherwise, civilization is in trouble. It seems that it can help fix it.”
Most experimental fusion reactors employ a donut-shaped Russian design called a tokamak. These designs make powerful use Magnetic Field To define a cloud of plasma or ionized gas at extreme temperatures to fuse together at extreme temperatures. The new experimental device, called SPARC (Soonest / Smolest Private-Funded Affordable Robust Compact), is being developed by scientists at MIT and a spinoff company, Commonwealth Fusion Systems.
If this is successful, SPARC will be the first device to achieve “burning plasma”, in which the heat released from all fusion reactions keeps the fusion moving without pumping in additional energy. But there has never been any use of the power to burn plasma in a controlled reaction to Earth, and more research is needed before the SPARC can do so. The SPARC project, which began in 2018, is scheduled to begin construction next June, with reactors starting in 2025. It is much faster than the world’s largest fusion power project, known as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which was conceived in 1985 but not launched until 2007; And although construction began in 2013, the project is not expected to generate a fusion reaction until 2035.
An advantage of SPARC over ITER may be that SPARC magnets are designed to define its plasma. Spark will use so-called high-temperature superconducting magnets that became commercially available only in the last three to five years, when the IER was first designed. These new magnets can produce far more powerful magnetic fields than ITER’s – 21 teslas, compared with ITER’s maximum of 12 teslas. (In comparison, the Earth’s magnetic field ranges in strength from 30 million to 60 millionths of a Tesla.)
These powerful magnets suggest that the core of the SPARC can be approximately three times smaller in diameter and 60 to 70 times smaller than the heart of the ITER, which is 6 m wide. “The dramatic reduction in size is accompanied by a reduction in weight and cost,” Greenwald told LiveScience. “It’s really game-changer.”
In seven new studies, researchers outlined SPARC’s design calculations and supercomputer simulations. Studies have found that sparks are expected to generate at least twice 10 times more energy.
The heat released from the fusion reactor creates steam. This steam then drives a turbine and an electric generator, the same way most electricity is produced nowadays.
“Fusion power plants can be one-to-one replacements for fossil fuel plants, and you won’t have to reorganize the electric grid for them,” Greenwald said. In contrast, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind “are not well adjusted by the current design of the electric grid.”
The researchers eventually expect spark-induced fusion power plants to generate 250 to 1,000 megawatts of electricity. “In the current electricity market in the United States, power plants typically generate between 100 and 500 megawatts,” Greenwald said.
The spark will only produce heat, not electricity. Once the researchers have built and tested the SPARC, they plan to build an ARC (Affordable Robust Compact) reactor, which will generate electricity from that heat by 2035.
“He’s very ambitious, but that’s the goal we’re working on,” Greenwald said. “I think it’s really admirable.”
Originally published on Live Science.