Clean, Endless Fusion Power Now Only 15 Years Away. Maybe

MIT MIT nuclear fusion nuclear fusion nuclear energy Commonwealth Fusion Systems renewable energy clean energy nuclear fusion breakthrough nuclear fusion energy nuclear fusion clean energy nuclear fusion renewable energy fusion how far away

The goal is to have a working power plant in time to combat climate change.

By 2040 or so, we'll have robots doing all the work and clean, cheap fusion providing all the power we need.

"Fusion, the process that powers the sun and stars, involves light elements, such as hydrogen, smashing together to form heavier elements, such as helium - releasing prodigious amounts of energy in the process", according to the MIT campus newsletter with the USA project planning to use new superconducting magnets in getting around the problem of extreme temperatures released during the process.

Left to right: Martin Greenwald, deputy director of the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC); Dan Brunner, chief technology officer of Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS); Zach Hartwig, assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering; Brandon Sorbom, chief science officer of CFS; Bob Mumgaard, chief executive officer of CFS; and Dennis Whyte, director of PSFC. Other nuclear fusion projects include the ITER project in Southern France, where the European Union and global partners are constructing a fusion reactor on a massive scale with cost already spiraling above $10 billion, but unlikely to generate power before the 2030s.

The collaboration between MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems is backed by an initial $50-million investment from Italian energy company Eni. MIT says its new venture will use "advances in high-temperature superconductors" to contain the fierce reactions more effectively than existing setups, allowing higher temperatures and net energy production.

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Eni's strategy supports the development of "game changer" technologies that respond to the world's growing energy needs with environmentally and economically sustainable solutions, it said. Decades of disappointment in the field has led to the joke that fusion is the energy of the future and always will be.

It plans to use a compound called yttrium-barium-copper oxide, or YBCO, in containment magnets that should open the way for more efficient, smaller-scale, lower-cost fusion reactors.

Nuclear fusion, in very simple terms, is a process where energy is created by smashing together two hydrogen atoms. These are too hot for any solid material to withstand so fusion researchers use magnetic fields to hold in place the hot plasma - a kind of gaseous soup of subatomic particles - keeping it from touching any part of the tokamak. However, that device uses up more energy than what gets churned out.

"This is an important historical moment: Advances in superconducting magnets have put fusion energy potentially within reach, offering the prospect of a safe, carbon-free energy future", said MIT president L. Rafael Reif.

"The higher the magnetic field, the more compactly you can squeeze that fuel", said Wilson. MIT's planned Sparc reactor will be one sixty-fifth of the volume of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) being built in France, but is hoping to produce 100MW, or about one fifth of ITER's output. While it will not turn that heat into electricity, it will produce, in pulses of about 10 seconds, as much power as is used by a small city. And it produces no greenhouse gases or long-lived radioactive waste.

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