Science & Technology
MIT's fusion reactor sets new world record
By T.K. Randall
October 18, 2016 · 15 comments
The reactor had been running for 23 years. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Bobmumgaard / MIT
A world powered by practically limitless, clean energy is now one step closer to becoming a reality.
Often seen as the Holy Grail of power generation, nuclear fusion is the same process that produces energy in the sun and works by fusing hydrogen nuclei together to create helium.
Unlike nuclear fission which comes with the inherent risk of a meltdown, fusion is much cleaner and safer while the hydrogen fuel used by the process is so abundant that it is practically limitless.
Now scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made another significant step forward on the road to achieving sustainable fusion energy by raising the pressure of the burning plasma within the Alcator C-Mod tokamak nuclear fusion reactor to 2.05 atmospheres - that's 15 percent higher than anything ever achieved before during similar experiments.
Raising the pressure and temperature is key to producing a sustainable nuclear fusion power plant as only by getting these high enough can the reactor produce more energy than it uses up.
"This is a remarkable achievement," said Dale Meade, former deputy director at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. "The record plasma pressure validates the high-magnetic-field approach as an attractive path to practical fusion energy."
The breakthrough came on the final day of operation for the reactor which had been running for 23 years. The record it achieved will likely stand until construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is completed in France which may not be until 2032 at the earliest.
Source: Tech Radar
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