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.
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?
Goodbye petrol - scientists have found a new limitless energy source https://t.co/2wcXiORJtp via @MetroUK #signalofchange