A major milestone has been breached in the quest for fusion energy.
For the first time, a fusion reaction has achieved a record 1.3 megajoule energy output – and for the first time, exceeding energy absorbed by the fuel used to trigger it.
Although there’s still some way to go, the result represents a significant improvement on previous yields: eight times greater than experiments conducted just a few months prior, and 25 times greater than experiments conducted in 2018. It’s a huge achievement.
SPARC is aiming to be the first experimental device to achieve an energy-positive fusion reaction. New research suggests that this goal may soon be within reach. » Subscribe to Seeker! http://bit.ly/subscribeseeker. » Watch more Elements! http://bit.ly/ElementsPlaylist. » Visit our shop at http://shop.seeker.com.
With construction slated to begin in spring 2021, the team predicts it could be built within 3 to 4 years from that. Their goal is to achieve a Q factor of at least 2, basically meaning SPARC will pump out twice the energy needed to power it.
Actually, by the calculations in their papers, SPARC could possibly achieve a Q ratio of 10! But the researchers are cautious about overpromising, and are just focused on achieving the lower figure. It’s still impressive, considering any net gain would be a first for human created controlled fusion.
Assuming it gets built along that predicted 3–4 year timeline and actually gets flipped on, there’s still several steps between SPARC and limitless clean energy.
We’ve Long Waited for Fusion. This Reactor May Finally Deliver It—Fast. https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/a34224299/nuclear-fusion-compact-reactor-sparc-timeline/ “Everyone involved with fusion is working hard with extremely complex science, and the delays aren’t because anyone is foolish.”
NASA and the U.S. Dept. of Energy have come together to solicit design proposals for a nuclear reactor that will power Lunar and Martian exploration!
Over the next fifteen years, multiple space agencies and their commercial partners intend to mount crewed missions to the Moon and Mars. In addition to placing “footprints and flags” on these celestial bodies, there are plans to establish the infrastructure to allow for a long-term human presence. To meet these mission requirements and ensure astronaut safety, several technologies are currently being researched and developed.
At their core, these technologies are all about achieving self-sufficiency in terms of resources, materials, and energy. To ensure that these missions have all the energy they need to conduct operations, NASA is developing a Fission Surface Power (FSP) system that will provide a safe, efficient, and reliable electricity supply. In conjunction with solar cells, batteries, and fuel cells, this technology will allow for long-term missions to the Moon and Mars in the near future.
For NASA, having fission reactors for lunar surface operations is a vital part of the Artemis Program, which aims to create a program of “sustained lunar exploration.” This means infrastructure is required, like the Lunar Gateway (where spacecraft will dock and resupply) and the Artemis Base Camp on the surface, where astronauts will eat, exercise, and sleep when not conducting extravehicular activities (EVAs) – i.e., surface operations.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, right? Normally we’d say yes, but experts around the globe say nuclear fusion power, which holds the promise of clean and virtually limitless electricity, could be just around the corner. After nearly six decades with many promises but few results, new advancements may finally tip the scale, according to the Financial Times.
“Fusion is coming, faster than you expect,” Fusion Industry Association exec Andrew Holland told the publication.
There could be many benefits to nuclear fusion. Unlike nuclear fission it would create little waste and, as far as we know, could never result in an accident like Chernobyl. Insert a side-eye here for plans to dump radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay and the Pacific.
New Chinese fusion approach, betting big on fusion and lots more fusion stories!
A summary of recent fusion energy news stories presented by Dr Leigh Ann Kesler, a fusion consultant specialising in science communication.
Today’s news stories:
1. Congressional Hearing on Fusion Energy Research and Technology Development. https://www.fusionindustryassociation.org/post/congressional-hearing-on-fusion-energy-research-and-technology-development. https://www.fusionindustryassociation.org/post/support-for-fusion-energy-in-the-house-passed-build-back-better-legislation.
2. Chinese Scientists Say They’ve Discovered Cheap New Way to Do Nuclear Fusion. https://futurism.com/china-cheap-nuclear-fusion. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science/article/3155546/chinese-scientists-strike-early-gold-race-nuclear-fusion-power (paywall) https://sg.news.yahoo.com/chinese-scientists-strike-early-gold-083430644.html (free version)
3. The chase for fusion energy. https://www.nature.com/immersive/d41586-021-03401-w/index.html.
China’s space program has completed a prototype design for a powerful nuclear reactor, a report from the South China Morning Post reveals.
The country’s space program is building the device to keep up with other space agencies that have also drawn plans to go nuclear, such as NASA, which recently made a call for private firms to develop a nuclear fission system to power missions on the Moon within 10 years.
China and the U.S. enter a new space race China’s space program, which has already built some of the components for its full reactor, wants to power future missions to the Moon and Mars with nuclear energy. China’s reactor will be able to generate one megawatt of electric power, making it 100 times more powerful than the device NASA wants to send to the Moon by 2030. NASA’s nuclear fission system will be capable of providing roughly 40 kilowatts of power, which the U.S. space agency says would be enough to power 30 households for a decade.
Barely a year after the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) broke one record for fusion, it’s smashed it again, this time holding onto a churning whirlpool of 100 million degree plasma for a whole 30 seconds.
Though it’s well short of the 101 seconds set by the Chinese Academy of Sciences earlier this year, it remains a significant milestone on the road to cleaner, near-limitless energy that could transform how we power our society.
We’re a step closer to limitless energy. The Korea Institute of Fusion Energy has set a new record by running at one million degrees and maintaining super-hot plasma for 30 seconds, beating its own previous record by 10 seconds, a report by New Atlas reveals.
The tokamak reactor used for the record run is the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR), which is also known as South Korea’s artificial sun.
Scientists are exploring nuclear fusion technology through various experimental devices, and a popular design for this pursuit of clean, practically inexhaustible energy is known as the tokamak. An exciting example of these donut-shaped reactors can be found at the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy, where scientists have reportedly set a new record by maintaining super-hot plasma for 30 seconds.
The idea behind fusion power is to recreate the processes that take place inside the Sun. Huge gravitational forces combine with intense heat and pressure to produce a plasma, in which nuclei smash into each other at high velocity to form helium and release energy.
Tokamaks are designed to recreate this process here on Earth with a series of coils placed around a torus-shaped reactor, magnetically confining plasma heated to millions of degrees for long enough for the fusion of nuclei to occur. Many of these experimental devices are in operation around the world, and the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) reactor is one making some promising strides.