Nuclear fusion – soon to an electric grid near you?

Clean power
CFS tokamak concept

Published on 29 December 2020 |
by Steve Hanley

29 December 2020 by Steve Hanley

There are two types of nuclear power – splitting and merging. Splitting is the one we are most familiar with. It involves the splitting of atoms – isotopes of uranium are the most common – in a process that releases large amounts of heat. That heat is then used to turn water into steam, which is then used to power fairly conventional turbines to generate electricity.

CFS tokamak concept

The Commonwealth Fusion Systems tokamak. Credit: CFS

Fusion is the front of splitting. Instead of splitting atoms, it forces them together under extreme heat and pressure. In theory, the result is more heat than is needed to keep the process going, and that excess heat can be used to turn water into steam, which is then used to power fairly conventional turbines to generate electricity. .

Many people think that humanity will find a way to find our scientific way out of the global confusion, although many other people have been narrowing down science and scientists lately and so often calling themselves charlatans, liars and even worse that the word science has become a nickname. ‘You geedunkin foofraw. You are nothing but a low point scientist looking to steal money from hardworking taxpayers to pocket your own pockets! ”Is how conservative media usually put it.

Despite the shrinkage of science put forward by the astonishing jacknapes around the current alleged leader of the free world, a group of the same scientists escape – escaping from the insane asylum on the banks of the Charles River known by the world name Under the code name Massachusetts Institute of Technology – says they have studied all the available fusion energy literature and found a way to create a fusion reactor that is compact and more or less affordable. It will therefore cost less than a fleet of aircraft carriers. Their work was recently published in the Journal of Plasma Physics.

They founded a company called Commonwealth Fusion Systems to build the first fusion reactor based on their new research. It will be called SPARC (who says scientists have no sense of humor?) And the company claims that it will be completed by the end of this decade and provide electricity to the grid.

The thing about fusion is that the process only works until isotopes of hydrogen are heated to hundreds of millions of degrees, according to The Guardian. As you can imagine, something hot can not be made in a normal container from stainless steel, concrete or even kryptonite. In fact, the only way to contain it is within a tokamak, a device with an ultra-powerful magnetic field. This is the part that nuclear physicists have halted so far. The people at SPARC claim that they have invented new magnetic technology that enables them to build a compact tokamak that is relatively affordable.

We are all familiar with fusion reactors, as it turns out. That bright light in the sky that we call the sun is, in fact, a large fusion reactor. It has been doing its thing for billions of years and will hopefully do so for a while longer, assuming people do not find a way to destroy it as they have destroyed almost everything here on earth. Fusion Power is It, the Holy Grail, the sine qua non of energy. In theory, it is capable of producing emission-free electricity forever, at least to a limited extent. homo sapiens can understand that term.

Bob Mumgaard, CEO of ‘These are concrete public predictions that when we build SPARC, the machine will produce net energy and even produce a high melting point of the plasma. It is a necessary condition for building a fusion plant that the world has been waiting for for decades. The combination of established plasma physics, new innovative magnets and reduced scale offers timely new possibilities for commercial fusion energy to make a difference for climate change. This is a major milestone for the company and for the global cleanup effort as we work to get commercial fusion energy on the grid as quickly as possible. ”

The company says: “CFS and MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center are also now building the advanced magnets that enable CFS to build fusion power plants significantly smaller and lower. This collaboration is on track to demonstrate a successful 20 Tesla, large bore magnet in 2021. This magnetic test, the first of its kind in the world, opens up a widely identified transformation potential for commercial fusion energy. These magnets will then be used in SPARC, which is on track to start construction in 2021 and demonstrate the net energy increase by merger by 2025. SPARC will pave the way for the first commercially viable fusion power plant called ARC. ”

Why do we need fusion power at a time when wind and solar power are growing by leaps and bounds? According to Bob Mumgaard, the goal is not to use fusion to replace solar power and wind, but to supplement it. “There are things that are difficult to do with only renewable energy, industrial scale, such as supplying large cities or manufacturing,” he says. The guardian. “This is where mergers can come.”

Martin Greenwald, one of the senior scientists of the SPARC project, adds that an important motivation for the ambitious timeline is meeting energy needs in a warming world. “Fusion seems to be one of the possible solutions to get ourselves out of our impending climate catastrophe. What we have really done is to combine an existing science with new materials to offer tremendous new possibilities, ‘he says.

It is particularly noteworthy that the climate plan proposed by incumbent President Joe Biden includes investments in advanced nuclear technology. Commonwealth Fusion Systems has attracted investments from a diverse group of supporters, including the Breakthrough Energy Ventures, founded by Bill Gates, and Equinor, the Norwegian state-owned energy company. A statement from Recharge News told the press: “Equinor is a broad-based energy company and we will continue to invest in promising and potentially changing technologies for carbon energy. We invest in fusion and CFS because we believe in technology and the company. ”

Will fusion power save us from ourselves? Can be. It seems far-fetched, but planes, the microwave and cell phones at the same time. According to legend, on New Year’s Eve 1899, the head of the U.S. Patent Office told a colleague, “Everything that can be invented is now invented.” Maybe we would be wise to keep these fusion energy things open.

Appreciate the originality of CleanTechnica? Consider becoming a member, supporter or ambassador of CleanTechnica – or a patron of Patreon.

Subscribe to our free daily newsletter or weekly newsletter to never miss a story.

Do you have a tip for CleanTechnica, would you like to advertise or suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

16 months Tesla Model 3 SR + Review

Tags: Bill Gates, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, Equinor, fusion reactor, MIT

About the author

Steve Hanley Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or wherever the Singularity can lead him. You can follow him Twitter but not on social media platforms run by evil lords like Facebook.