|3/5/2017 by mdc|
|September 30, 2016, scientists and engineers at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center made a leap forward in the pursuit of clean energy. The team set a new world record for plasma pressure in the Institute Alcator C-Mod tokamak nuclear fusion reactor. Plasma pressure is the key ingredient to producing energy from nuclear fusion, and MIT new result achieves over 2 atmospheres of pressure for the first time.|
Nuclear fusion has the potential to produce nearly unlimited supplies of clean, safe, carbon-free energy. Fusion is the same process that powers the sun, and it can be realized in reactors that simulate the conditions of ultrahot miniature stars of plasma, superheated gas, that are contained within a magnetic field.
While Alcator C-Mod contributions to the advancement of fusion energy have been significant, it is a science research facility. In 2012 the DOE decided to cease funding to Alcator due to budget pressures from the construction of ITER. Following that decision, the U.S. Congress restored funding to Alcator C-Mod for a three-year period, which ended on Sept. 30, 2016.
ITER, a tokamak currently under construction in France, will be approximately 800 times larger in volume than Alcator C-Mod, but it will operate at a lower magnetic field. ITER is expected to reach 2.6 atmospheres when in full operation by 2032, according to a recent Department of Energy report.
Alcator C-Mod is also similar in size and cost to nontokamak magnetic fusion options being pursued by private fusion companies, though it can achieve pressures 50 times higher. Compact, high-field tokamaks provide another exciting opportunity for accelerating fusion energy development, so that it is available soon enough to make a difference to problems like climate change and the future of clean energy.