MIT scientists have created the world’s most powerful superconducting electromagnet or fusion magnet that can attain a magnetic field of 20 Tesla, and is a major breakthrough towards practical nuclear fusion power, which many experts believe could one day provide the world with virtually unlimited power.
According to the MIT press release, the electromagnet is the strongest ever produced on Earth. “Fusion in a lot of ways is the ultimate clean energy source,” MIT geophysicist Maria Zuber said in the release. “It’s really a watershed moment, I believe, in fusion science and technology,” added MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center director Dennis Whyte.
How MIT scientists acheivied this Major Adavnce feat?
MIT scientists created this powerful superconducting electromagnet, capable enough to lift an aircraft carrier, while working on an experimental fusion reactor design called ARC (affordable, robust, compact). This project by ITER aims to recreate the conditions within the Sun by fusing hydrogen atoms under extreme heat and pressure and therefore release a huge amount of clean energy.
As the isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) are introduced in the doughnut-shaped Tokamak and superheated, they result in the formation of vortex plasma. To maintain the safe fusion a strong magnet is needed so that it can control super-hot plasma that manages the energy generated during the process.
Instead of using a low-temperature magnet on which ITER mainly relies, the ARC team plans more interesting by creating high-temperature superconductors, which make it possible to obtain a much higher magnetic field in a small space. So, the team worked with startup CFS for three years on commercially – available tape that comes on reels and deploys in a flat ribbon to create such a magnet. And finally, they succeeded.
As reported by NewAtlas, the team created a magnet that uses 267 Km(166 miles) of superconducting tape to form 16 plates, which are piled into a D-shaped housing. The magnet is cooled to about ~ 253.15 degrees celsius, where it becomes superconducting.
The team aimed to record a magnetic field of 20 Tesla (roughly 280,000 times stronger than Earth’s magnetic field), so they progressively intensified the superconducting electromagnet during testing and thus obtained the most powerful magnetic field ever realized by a fusion magnet.
Maria Zuber, MITs’ vice president for research says,
“I now am genuinely optimistic that SPARC can achieve net positive energy, based on the demonstrated performance of the magnets. The next step is to scale up, to build an actual power plant. There are still many challenges ahead, not the least of which is developing a design that allows for reliable, sustained operation.”
“And realizing that the goal here is commercialization, another major challenge will be economic. How do you design these power plants so it will be cost-effective to build and deploy them?”
However, scientists believe that this invention of the most powerful fusion magnet will provide new strength and help us to reach new heights in fusion power.