Ah, fusion power is, no doubt, Holy Grail of all of our energy problems and our obvious key to the stars. A group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says that they have finally have a real reason to get thrilled. By using a new kind of superconductor, they say they can lessen the size of a potential fusion reactor while extremely increasing its power output. Dennis Whyte, a well-known professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and also the director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, said “It changes the whole thing,” Their suggestion includes a kind of reactor known as a tokamak, which is donut-shaped. A fusion reactor re-forms the Sun’s procedure of fusing hydrogen atoms together to create helium at its core, which discharges huge amounts of energy.
|A cutaway view of the proposed ARC reactor.|
One of the toughest parts of redoing this here on Earth, however, is heating the plasma essential for the reaction to temperatures equal to the core of a star, about 15 million degrees Celsius (27 million degrees Fahrenheit), while keeping it limited and safe. Doing so has depend on on using magnetic fields formed by copper conductors to trap the heat and particles in the core of a reactor, but creating strong enough magnetic fields via this technique is a complex, not to mention massive, process. In the recent paper in Fusion Engineering and Design, the MIT group of researchers describe that use of the rare-earth barium copper oxide (REBCO) superconducting tapes, as an alternative of copper, can create high-magnetic field coils at a fraction of the size. Actually, they say they could essentially increase the fusion power by a factor of 10 in their new reactor, called ARC (hat tip to Iron Man), when it is chilled to the temperature of liquid nitrogen, about -200°C (-330°F). This is because the new superconductors generate a more powerful field than their copper counterparts.
Ph.D. candidate Brandon Sorbom from MIT, said “The much higher magnetic field allows you to achieve much higher performance,” The ARC reactor is just a suggestion for now, but the team said it could possibly be constructed in just five years. For contrast, construction on a massive $40 billion (£26 billion) experimental fusion reactor in France called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) started in 2013, and is anticipated to be finished in 2019. It was planned before these new superconductors were accessible.