Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageMIT joins with private company to make fusion power happen soon

By Karen Graham     Mar 12, 2018 in Science
The most promising source of clean energy has always been nuclear fusion - but making this dream a reality has been difficult. But MIT, working with funding from a private company has started a project to make the dream a reality within 15 years.
Bob Mumgaard, CEO of the private company Commonwealth Fusion Systems has attracted $50 million in support of a new nuclear fusion project from the Italian energy company Eni. The goal of the project is simple - Create a working fusion power plant in time to combat climate change.
Actually, the project has a self-imposed timeline of 15 years, half the timeframe usually given for a fusion project. “The 15-year timeline is to get a device that puts 200 megawatts on the grid,” CFS CEO and MIT grad Mumgaard told Gizmodo. “That’s a small city.”
But Mumgaard thinks they have the science, speed, and scale to put carbon-free fusion power on the grid in such a short time. The MIT team says it will be using superconducting materials to produce the ultra-powerful magnets needed for the reactor, something they have been working on for a few years.
This picture taken on October 27  2017  shows the headquarters of the Italian oil and gas company En...
This picture taken on October 27, 2017, shows the headquarters of the Italian oil and gas company Eni near Milan
The new fusion experiment - Sparc
The new superconducting material is a compound dubbed YBCO, for yttrium-barium-copper oxide. The YBCO will be used to coat steel tape, creating much smaller but more powerful magnets than are currently available. The fusion device will be 1/65th of the volume of ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project in France, but will release one-fifth of its power.
These magnets should generate four times as strong a magnetic field and tenfold the power output of any existing fusion experiment, according to the team.
MIT's compact tokamak, called Sparc will be capable of generating 100 megawatts of heat. This won't be converted to electricity, but it will be used to produce 10-second pulses of enough power for a small city - and more than twice the power needed to heat the plasma, according to MIT researchers.
Eighteen  D -shaped toroidal field magnets will surround the torus-shaped vacuum vessel to confine t...
Eighteen "D"-shaped toroidal field magnets will surround the torus-shaped vacuum vessel to confine the plasma particles. Measuring 17 metres in height, 9 metres in width, and weighing in at 310 tonnes each, these coils rank among the largest components of the ITER machine.
If the mini-tokamak project is successful, then they will have acquired the technical milestones required to build a prototype full-scale fusion reactor with a capacity of 200MW.
"By putting the magnet development up front," said Dennis Whyte, director of MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center, "we think that this gives you a really solid answer in three years, and gives you a great amount of confidence moving forward that you're giving yourself the best possible chance of answering the key question, which is: Can you make net energy from a magnetically confined plasma?"
“If MIT can do what they are saying—and I have no reason to think that they can’t — this is a major step forward,” Stephen Dean, head of Fusion Power Associates, in Maryland, told Nature.
More about Mit, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, hightemperature superconductors, Sparc, Eni Energy
Latest News
Top News