Nuclear fusion record hails advent of small-scale reactors

Signal of change / Nuclear fusion record hails advent of small-scale reactors

By Anna Simpson / 26 Sep 2017
Bob Mumgaard/Plasma Science and Fusion Center/MIT

Researchers at MIT have set a new world record in creating the conditions thought to enable nuclear fusion, the reaction that powers the sun. Fusion depends on a combination of temperature, pressure and time. The research team increased the pressure by more than 16% on the previous world record, set in 2005, to more than two atmospheres, using a very high magnetic field. This pressure was combined with a temperature of 35 million degrees C, lasting for two seconds. All of this was achieved in a reactor measuring just one cubic metre. 

So what?

The breakthrough is interesting not just for the record set, but because it was achieved in a small-scale reactor. Currently, the funding and attention of major global powers - including the US, the EU, China, India, South Korea, Russia and Japan - is focused on a huge fusion reactor called ITER, seven storeys high, being built in the south of France. 

As Dr David Kingham, chief executive of Tokamak Energy, told The Guardian: “The conventional view is that tokamaks have to be huge [like ITER] to be powerful,” he said. “The MIT people disagree with that view, as do we.” Tokamak Energy aims to produce electricity in compact reactors by 2025.

Are we on the way to community-scale nuclear fusion?



Will Dawson on Twitter

Goodbye petrol - scientists have found a new limitless energy source via @MetroUK #signalofchange

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

Its about time we got clean and abundant energy source. The way forward is through progress, not fight against the existing.

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