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Team at MIT developing fusion power

Team at MIT developing fusion power thumbnail

Team at MIT developing fusion power

If this is achieved, the researcher team from MIT – with financial and technical assistance from Commonwealth Fusion Systems in the United States and Italian energy company Eni – believes its system could demonstrate one of the holy grails of nuclear fusion technology: positive net energy from fusion, meaning you get more energy from what you put in.

They will use ultra powerful electromagnets to control the reaction and force the nuclei to fuse together.

In Italy, which rejected the development of nuclear power in a referendum in 1987 following the Chernobyl disaster, renewable energy initiatives are mainly driven by utility Enel and its global Enel Green Power unit.

FUSION power – the clean energy technology wryly said to always be 30 years from reality – could be demonstrated within just 15 years, thanks to new research efforts at MIT.

In a statement, Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi said his company’s investment marked a “significant step toward the development of alternative energy sources with an ever-lower environmental impact”. “An entirely new industry may be seeded potentially with New England as its hub”.

Unlike with fossil fuels, or nuclear fuel like uranium used in fission reactions, there will never be a shortage of hydrogen. “It also produces thermal energy, so it can be used for heat as well as power”.

During the 23 years MIT’s Alcator C-Mod tokamak fusion experiment was in operation, it repeatedly advanced records for plasma pressure in a magnetic confinement device. Using high-field magnets built with high-temperature superconductors, this experiment could be the first controlled fusion plasma to produce net energy output.

Commonwealth is counting on recent advances in high-temperature superconductors to give its approach an edge. They operate at the freezing point of neon: 40 degrees Kelvin or 388 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s critical for researchers to be able to predict how the molten salt in such an immersion blanket would move when subjected to high magnetic fields such as those found within a fusion plant.

Zach Hartwig, an assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, said in an interview with MIT News that the basic science behind Sparc had been paid for with federal government funding, but it was necessary to find private money to pay for its development as technology.

“It turns out increasing the magnetic field results in much higher performance fusion but at drastically smaller scale”, he said. This means that the cost, size and complexity of a fusion reactor can be greatly reduced. If successful, the multimillion-dollar effort could help unlock a virtually limitless source of pollution-free energy. An worldwide effort by 35 nations has been building a giant fusion test reactor in the south of France. The objective of this blanket is threefold: to convert the kinetic energy of fusion neutrons to heat for eventual electricity production; to produce tritium – a main component of the fusion fuel; and to prevent the neutrons from reaching other parts of the machine and causing material damage.

They hope the private funding from Commonwealth Fusion Systems will help them reach that goal.

Bob Mumgaard, chief executive of CFS, told The Guardian newspaper: “The aspiration is to have a working power plant in time to combat climate change”.

The planned fusion experiment, called Sparc, is set to be far smaller – about 1/65th of the volume – than that of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, an international collaboration now being constructed in France.

Compared with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project based in France, the largest fusion project of its kind, the Sparc is just a fraction of its volume.

Express News

14 Comments on "Team at MIT developing fusion power"

  1. Duncan Idaho on Sat, 10th Mar 2018 3:47 pm 

    Could be 1950 MIT, or 2018—
    Still 20 years away.
    A true constant.

  2. fmr-paultard on Sat, 10th Mar 2018 6:08 pm 

    thanks supertards for working on this

  3. Sissyfuss on Sat, 10th Mar 2018 7:09 pm 

    All right now, this time they really mean it.

  4. Cloggie on Sat, 10th Mar 2018 10:12 pm 

    Keep up the good work folks!

    In the mean time, let’s build these wind parks. Perhaps in 100 years we can take them down again and turn them into fusion-powered, self-driving e-vehicles, provided of course there are by that time still sufficient people around with undefined teint who have a grasp of the principles of fusion power. Probably not in North-America.

    I asked my buddy anonymouse1 about the state of functional illiteracy in his [cough] native Toronto, but unfortunately could not discern an answer in between all the references to Israel and “cloggberg”, so I decided to research the matter myself. Turns out that a whopping 2 out of 5 (for Europeans, used to SI-units, that would be 40%) adults have difficulty with reading:

    Canadians have a little trouble though figuring out who exactly has these reading problems. Perhaps they are afraid of hurting somebodies feelings. The general concensus though seems to be that “the educational system failed them”. Which is an abstract enough formulation to drop the sensitive matter. Walk on, nothing to be seen.

    But tell me anonymouse1… are you going to join the Toronto Orange Order Parade in July this year?

    That’s the event where the entire British Empire of former fame commemorates the Dutch invasion and conquest of Britain and Northern Ireland, paid tor by a certain tribe, in order to turn the subjects into fine Protestants and get Anglo-Zionism going for the first time ever.

    Or is this too Anglo for your taste, anonymous1? Are there any Anglos left in Toronto in the first place?

  5. Go Speed Racer on Sat, 10th Mar 2018 11:22 pm 

    They left a nylon cable-tie on the floor,
    next to that old nuclear reactor on the

  6. Cloggie on Sat, 10th Mar 2018 11:29 pm 

    That’s unproblematic, GSR. Start to worry if they bring in candles.

  7. JH Wyoming on Sun, 11th Mar 2018 12:24 am 

    If this is achieved…

    If, being the operative word.

  8. forbin on Sun, 11th Mar 2018 8:27 am 

    “The aspiration is to have a working power plant in time to combat climate change”.

    bit late for that …..


  9. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 11th Mar 2018 4:10 pm 

    We don’t need Fusion Power, when we
    have already got Tire Fires.

    A clean cheap inexhaustible, perpetually
    renewable source of energy:

  10. Ken Filar on Mon, 12th Mar 2018 12:30 am 

    The article has a couple references to a blanket which are dropped in at odd places. The initial reactor which is to demonstrate net energy will not have such a blanket.

    The second reference to the same blanket comes oddly out of context immediately after mentioning ITER in France.

    These appear to be cut and paste mistakes.

  11. Go Speed Racer on Mon, 12th Mar 2018 3:03 am 

    They need the blankets because
    its damn cold outside, and the
    fusion reactor doesn’t seem to work.

  12. ????????????????????????????????? on Mon, 12th Mar 2018 5:23 pm 

    Good luck, but without homo, negro,trans ,female scientists there can be no innovation

  13. Newfoundlander on Tue, 13th Mar 2018 8:07 am 

    It’s only 15 years away. And it always will be.

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