US company achieves breakthrough in nuclear fusion

For a CO2-free energy supply, researchers all over the world are looking for alternatives that can reliably provide sufficient energy. Nuclear fusion has been a candidate that has been mentioned again and again for many years. A US company has now achieved a breakthrough in nuclear fusion.

So far it has not been possible to maintain a fusion process with a positive energy balance. Because in order to maintain the process of nuclear fusion one has to keep the required plasma in a magnetic field. In all previous experiments, more energy was required for the magnetic field than could be obtained through fusion. The American company’s breakthrough marks a new milestone in nuclear fusion.

US company achieves breakthrough in nuclear fusion. For the first time, magnets made from high-temperature superconductors enable a positive energy balance.

Theoretical basis already laid in the 1950s

Soviet researchers laid the theoretical foundations for a fusion reactor back in the 1950s. However, it has not yet been possible to solve the technical problems that arise.

Werbung

In a so-called tokamak reactor, the same conditions as on the sun prevail with extremely high temperatures and pressures. To do this, plasma is held in a magnetic field, the magnets of which require an extremely large amount of electricity. So far, no positive energy balance has been achieved, i.e. the magnets required more electricity than the fusion process could generate.

Breakthrough in nuclear fusion through high-temperature superconductors

The Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) and the Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have now succeeded in developing a magnet that requires only one seventh of the electricity required than previous magnets. The magnet is still strong enough to keep the plasma stable. This enables a positive energy balance, at least in theory. The CEO of the Fusion Industry Association, Andrew Holland, raved about CNBC. “This is a big deal. This is not hype, this is reality. As the entire fusion industry advances, we see a new, clean, sustainable and always available energy source emerge. No company, university, national laboratory or government has yet achieved the goal of a cost-covering merger, ”said Andrew Holland.

The progress was achieved through novel high-temperature superconductors. The electrical resistance drops to almost zero. This effect actually only occurs at extremely low temperatures close to absolute zero. But special materials have made it possible to push the temperature limit for superconductivity further upwards. Hence the name high-temperature superconductor. High-temperature superconductivity is also a key technology for other electrical applications in which electrical losses are to be reduced.

Werbung

The test facility is to be completed by 2025

The novel magnets are now to be used in a test facility called SPARC. The plant is already under construction and is scheduled to go into operation in 2025. SPARC is a test facility that will generate energy for the first time. The results from SPRAC are to be incorporated into the ARC fusion power plant, which is scheduled to operate in 2030. However, nuclear fusion can only play a role in the future if it is developed faster than before. Critics fear, however, that electricity generation through nuclear fusion will only be possible at extremely high costs, if at all.

Great Britain and China are also researching fusion reactors

With the tokamak reactor, the US researchers are relying on a continuous fusion process. Scientists in the UK are meanwhile working on another reactor that uses a sequence of individual fusions. This technology would do without the energy-intensive magnets for taming the plasma in a ring. The US program is also funded by Bill Gates.

The success of the private initiative is also putting the international ITER project under pressure. However, American researchers are not the only ones to report success. The Chinese Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) now also uses superconducting magnet coils. China is also ahead of the West in developing a thorium reactor.

Source: CNBC

Werbung