Tokamak Energy, a UK nuclear fusion corporation, announced that it is on track to become the first private business to reach a 100 million-degree plasma temperature, a significant move forward for commercial fusion energy.
In March, Tokamak Energy released images of the plasma in its newly revamped spherical tokamak, the ST40.
The group, whose fusion energy machine reached temperatures higher than the sun’s core in 2018, hopes to attain fusion temperatures of 100 million degrees over the next few months.
“The first plasma is a significant step toward commercializing fusion energy. Over the last year, our ST40 unit has received upgraded power supplies and plasma heating systems, “Jonathan Carling, CEO of Tokamak Energy, said
“Over the next few months, this experiment will reach a 100-million-degree plasma temperature, far above anything accomplished by other private fusion projects and the temperature needed for commercial fusion technology,” Carling said.
The CEO compared first fusion to the first flight of a new aircraft prototype, saying the company would “confirm all our systems perform as planned” before “turning on the afterburners” to achieve a temperature of 100 million degrees plasma.
Massive magnetic power is needed for nuclear fusion.
Nuclear fusion reactors are designed to replicate the mechanism by which the sun and stars generate energy.
Big magnets are used to fuse hydrogen atoms to create helium and absorb the resulting heat energy to generate electricity, which actually consumes more energy than the reactors produce. This is arguably the most significant obstacle to almost limitless emission-free energy supplies from nuclear fusion power plants.
Dr. Greg Brittles, Senior HTS Magnet Engineer at Tokamak Energy, explained to the BBC in a recent interview that the force created by the company’s magnets is comparable to twice the pressure at the bottom of the deepest ocean trench.
Tokamak Energy is a spin-off from Culham Laboratory, a world-class fusion test facility near Oxford in the United Kingdom. It isn’t the only private company to have met potentially game-changing nuclear fusion milestones; TAE Technologies revealed last month that its reactors could produce economically feasible energy by the end of the 2020s.
The UK government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution included fusion reaction technologies. The UK recently announced that it was searching for land to develop its first nuclear fusion power plant. Meanwhile, the United States announced its intentions to construct a nuclear fusion power plant by the 2040s.