I'll preface by saying I'm very excited about SPARC and have faith that they'll meet their target. On Earth, it’s a bit harder. According to Dennis Whyte, head of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC), the new project’s aim is “to try to get to fusion energy a lot faster,” by creating a prototype fusion device with a net power output within the next 15 years. SPARC would be the size of existing mid-sized fusion devices, but with a much stronger magnetic field. Plasma can be created by applying an electric field to a gas until it’s so hot that it conducts electricity, but controlling the plasma once it’s created is very difficult. SPARC's physics foundation (as shown by the released papers) is quite strong compared to other proposed fusion start ups. And somehow we have much to discover because the best ones we have are super complicated ceramic mixtures and we don't really know how much better we can make them. Ken Filar / PSFC Research Affiliate April 27, 2019, 10:07 AM UTC This means you can build smaller. SIGN UP FOR THE MACH NEWSLETTER AND FOLLOW NBC NEWS MACH ON TWITTER, FACEBOOK, AND INSTAGRAM. Just as spaceflight companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin have built upon NASA technology, a handful of fusion startups are building on government-funded fusion research, with the goal of firing up the first commercial fusion power plant as early as the 2020s. The second is that there is very little neutron shielding for the magnets. Emanuel countered the claims by some skeptics who say that climate has always been changing, pointing out that human civilization has developed during the last several thousand years, which has been a period of exceptional climate stability. So doubling the field strength would increase the yield by factor 16. You need a way to capture the heat from the reaction (so you can generate power) contain escaping radiation. Concerning the neutron damage: In the beginning of this year I talked to a tokamak energy engineer and he said that neutron damage is actually not much of an issue for their HTS and if I'm not wrong, SPARC uses the same type of superconductor. Press question mark to learn the rest of the keyboard shortcuts. Discussion of real advancements, concepts and applications in the field of nuclear fusion. Don't Panic! Just a quick correction that it's fusion power that scales very strongly with toroidal field strength (4th power) rather than plasma energy confinement time (power of 0.15 going by IPB98(y,2) scaling). SPARC uses a molten salt (very hot liquid mineral) instead of a solid blanket. The advantages of SPARC (as compared to other alternative, i.e. “Everything that the private companies have been able to do is built on the shoulders of giants.”. I'm obviously a fan of fusion but tokamaks won't be here in time to fix climate change. The site may not work properly if you don't, If you do not update your browser, we suggest you visit, Press J to jump to the feed. He said within two years they should have full-scale magnets up and running. There's no way we can realistically depend on 30-40% renewables. Fusion is really sensitive to the magnetic field strength, so a twice as powerful field (what SPARC offers) gives you about four times as much power in the plasma. Jean-Baptiste. This website is managed by the MIT News Office, part of the MIT Office of Communications. As one researcher put it, controlling plasma within a reactor vessel is like trying to control a cigarette’s smoke ring. And while power plants that burn fossil fuels spew carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the only waste produced by fusion is helium — a commercially valuable gas. The New York Times doesn't shed much light on how it will be different. Based on established physics, the device is predicted to produce 50-100 MW of fusion power, achieving fusion gain, Q, greater than 2. We already have the solution and it's already in mass production we just need to increase the scale of production and installation. MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT continues progress toward practical fusion energy. SPARC will likely be the first experimental reactor that actually produces more energy than it consumes. I wouldn't be surprised if projects like SPARC lead us to some massive leaps in understanding of fusion, especially when compared to Tokamak (EDIT: I actually meant ITER) performance. Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives license. Also, for the time before we get fusion I'm a big proponent of fission since it's so so low carbon and it works, but I guess irrational fears beat scientific facts. Nuclear fusion will fill the exact same niche that traditional nuclear does, just with less public apprehension. Aerial view of the ITER facility near Toulouse, France. Nuclear fusion is also looking like it's still not going to be here in time. These magnets will then be used in constructing SPARC to demonstrate net energy gain from fusion for the first time in history. Plants need energy, as does our atmosphere and weather. You won’t find plasmas occurring naturally, except inside a lightning bolt. Publishing the physics basis is an important step for any big experiment, and gives a lot of credibility to a project like this. I'm not an expert on this, but superconductors are a pretty complicated science. Fusion will likely remain expensive compared to the remarkable drop in prices for renewables. I believe they mentioned in the public zoom meeting last Thursday that gas puffing and pellet injection are both on the table as far as inclusion in the design goes. “We’re going to have to do whatever works,” he said, and while conventional fission-based nuclear power may be essential in the near term, in the longer term fusion power could be key to weaning the world from fossil fuels. A General Fusion team member installs magnetic field sensors on a machine known as PI3 during its construction in January 2019. Fabric samples are headed to the International Space Station for resiliency testing; possible applications include cosmic dust detectors or spacesuit smart skins. CFS will join with MIT to carry out rapid, staged research leading to a new generation of fusion experiments and power plants based on advances in high-temperature … a.k.a. That’s a lot of confidence to put in a single divertor, especially for a topology that has never been formed on a real world device. Still, the dependence of the fusion power P_(fus) on B_t is much stronger, good point. ... We had a lot of discussions over the last few days about SPARC, the joint project from MIT and Commonwealth Fusion System. At the event, titled “The MIT Fusion Landscape,” speakers explained why fusion power is urgently needed, and described the approach MIT and CFS are taking and how the project is taking shape. High school students from across the country competed in an all-day online competition. Good point with the gas puffing (I need to double-check if there is no gas puff system), I guess in general we can say there are very little MHD-instability mitigation/control systems. Press question mark to learn the rest of the keyboard shortcuts. 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