This sets a solid basis for the device's operation once constructed, according to Greenwald. This series of papers provides a high level of confidence in the plasma physics and the performance predictions for SPARC, he says. Greenwald says there is still much to be learned about the physics of burning plasmas, and once this machine is up and running, key information can be gained that will help pave the way to commercial, power-producing fusion devices, whose fuel -- the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium -- can be made available in virtually limitless supplies.
ARC plans to integrate the results of SPARC with these advanced technologies in order to be the first fusion power plant to demonstrate electricity generation.
In this type of fusion device, strong magnetic fields produced by powerful electromagnets are used to contain the plasma in a toroidal (doughnut-shaped) vacuum environment, in order to insulate and isolate the plasma from ordinary materials.
The SPARC project was launched in early 2018, and work on its first stage, the development of the superconducting magnets that would allow smaller fusion systems to be built, has been proceeding apace. ", Special journal issue: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-plasma-physics/collections/status-of-the-sparc-physics-basis. So far, there have been only minor changes to the overall design. It is designed to achieve a Q factor — a key parameter denoting the efficiency of a fusion plasma — of at least 2, essentially meaning that twice as much fusion energy is produced as the amount of energy pumped in to generate the reaction. These challenges include higher mechanical stresses in the magnets, larger heat loads from the fusion process, and the uncertainty of manufacturing and operating a first-of-its-kind HTS coil. Greenwald says there is still much to be learned about the physics of burning plasmas, and once this machine is up and running, key information can be gained that will help pave the way to commercial, power-producing fusion devices, whose fuel — the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium — can be made available in virtually limitless supplies. Two and a half years ago, MIT entered into a research agreement with startup company Commonwealth Fusion Systems to develop a next-generation fusion research experiment, called SPARC, as a precursor to a practical, emissions-free power plant. The ability of these companies to attract investment is both an indication of the value placed on achieving fusion energy and a validation of the ongoing research in labs worldwide. No unexpected impediments or surprises have shown up, and the remaining challenges appear to be manageable. SPARC is planned to be the first experimental device ever to achieve a "burning plasma" -- that is, a self-sustaining fusion reaction in which different isotopes of the element hydrogen fuse together to form helium, without the need for any further input of energy. A quench can lead to rapid, localized heating of the superconductor, potentially causing damage if the magnet is improperly designed or operated. Apart from this technological progress, one of the most exciting recent developments in the field has been the rapid growth of private investment in fusion.
To do this, the fusion fuel must be heated to temperatures of around 200 million K. At these temperatures, all matter exists as a plasma, in which electrons and nuclei have separated to form what can be thought of as an ionized gas. The calculations at this point show that SPARC could actually achieve a Q ratio of 10 or more, according to the new papers. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. Popular Mechanics reporter Caroline Delbert writes that new research by MIT scientists provides evidence that the compact nuclear fusion design they are developing should be feasible. This limitation is what led to the design of the ITER tokamak, which is currently being constructed in France under the aegis of an international collaboration, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. Studying the behavior of this burning plasma — something never before seen on Earth in a controlled fashion — is seen as crucial information for developing the next step, a working prototype of a practical, power-generating power plant. Cutaway rendering of SPARC, a compact, high-field, DT burning tokamak, Zebra Finches Unmask the Bird Behind the Song, Most Effective Strategies to Cut COVID-19 Spread, Memory 'Fingerprints' Reveal Brain Organization, Geology at Mars' Equator: Ancient Megaflood, Healthy Sleep Habits Cut Risk of Heart Failure, NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 Astronauts Headed to ISS, https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-plasma-physics/collections/status-of-the-sparc-physics-basis, Taking a New Tangent to Control Pesky Waves in Fusion Plasmas, Fusion: Fuel Injection Helps Reduce Magnetic Island Instabilities, Demonstration of Alpha Particle Confinement Capability in Helical Fusion Plasmas, Tungsten Examined in Extreme Environments to Improve Fusion Materials, Blue Ring Nebula: 16-Year-Old Cosmic Mystery Solved, Revealing Stellar Missing Link, A Nanomaterial Path Forward for COVID-19 Vaccine Development, Revolutionary CRISPR-Based Genome Editing System Treatment Destroys Cancer Cells, Three Reasons Why COVID-19 Can Cause Silent Hypoxia, Researchers Identify Features That Could Make Someone a Virus Super-Spreader, Galaxy Encounter Violently Disturbed Milky Way, Scientists Make Sound-Waves from a Quantum Vacuum at the Black Hole Laboratory, Sound Waves Power New Advances in Drug Delivery and Smart Materials, More Skin-Like, Electronic Skin That Can Feel, World's Smallest Atom-Memory Unit Created, Showing Robots How to Drive a Car...in Just a Few Easy Lessons.
The highest-performing tokamak so far, in terms of the ratio of fusion power to the required heating power, is the Joint European Torus (JET) in the UK, which was constructed using copper magnets. The diameter of the reactor has been increased by about 12 percent, but little else has changed, Greenwald says. Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly.
MIT’s vice president for research identifies fusion and the SPARC project as one of three areas that show particular promise for climate action.
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