Fusion is getting nearer with the profitable take a look at of a brand new kind of magnet


The teams from CFS and MIT are working on the magnet.

Photo credit: Gretchen Ertl, CFS / MIT-PSFC, 2021

With the successful test of a key technology – a very strong magnet that uses very little energy – Fusion has taken a decisive step forward on the way from laboratory to market readiness.

Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) announced Wednesday that they completed the test at 6 a.m. on Sunday at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts .

In the test, the magnet reached 20 Tesla, a unit of measure for the strength of a magnet. (Like the car company, it is named after engineer Nikola Tesla.) For reference, 20 Tesla is 12 times the magnetic field of conventional MRI or magnetic resonance imaging.

It did so while using only about 30 watts of energy – several orders of magnitude less than the traditional copper-conducting magnet MIT had previously tested that used 200 million watts, Dennis Whyte, director of MIT’s PSFC and co-founder of CFS, said in one Conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

Nuclear fusion is the reaction that powers the sun and stars. It occurs when two smaller, lighter nuclei fuse into a single heavier nucleus and release energy.

If fusion can be achieved and commercialized on Earth, it will provide a nearly limitless source of clean energy without producing the fission waste that can remain radioactive for thousands of years.

In a donut-shaped fusion machine called a tokamak, magnets hold and isolate burning plasma so that nuclear fusion reactions can take place.

The new magnet from CFS and MIT is strong enough that if the team uses these magnets to build a donut-shaped fusion machine called a tokamak, they can achieve “net energy,” meaning the fusion machine will generate more energy that it needs is to initiate and sustain the response, said MIT’s CFS and PSFC.

So far, no company has succeeded in achieving a net energy fusion. So far, all of the energy generated by fusion reactions has been used to initiate and sustain the reaction.

“Nobody – corporations, universities, national laboratories or governments – has achieved the break-even merger goal,” said Andrew Holland, Chief Executive Officer of the Fusion Industry Association told CNBC.

MIT scientists and engineers from CFS and PSFC said the successful performance of their new magnet technology was an important step in their technological advancement of commercialized fusion.

“This magnet will change the trajectory of both fusion science and energy, and we will end up thinking the world’s energy landscape,” Whyte said.

The performance of these magnets gives Holland confidence that MIT’s CFS and PSFC will be able to achieve the commercialized merger goal. “It’s a big deal,” Holland told CNBC.

“This is not hype, this is reality. As the entire fusion industry advances, we are seeing a new, clean, sustainable and always available energy source being born,” said Holland.

Here team members from CFS and MIT lower the superconducting magnet into the test bench.

Photo credit: Gretchen Ertl, CFS / MIT-PSFC, 2021

To build the magnets, which can reach 20 Tesla in their experiment on Sunday, CFS and MIT used high-temperature superconductors.

“The size and performance of this magnet is similar to a non-superconducting magnet that was used in the MIT experiment, which completed its experiments five years ago,” Whyte said. But “the difference in energy consumption is pretty impressive.”

CSF is a pre-revenue and has raised more than $ 250 million from a handful of investors including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the high-profile sustainability mutual fund that has sponsored Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Ray Dalio.

The high-temperature superconductor magnet demonstrated on Sunday will be used in its test fusion facility called SPARC, which is already under construction in Devens, Massachusetts and set to demonstrate the net energy from the fusion by 2025, the teams said.

Its first fusion power plant, called ARC, is scheduled to go online in the early 2030s.

SPARC is “not a commercial system in the sense that you can count on it to sit there for 30 years pumping power to people whose lights go out when they don’t,” said Bob Mumgaard, CEO of CFS , on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

The difference between SPARC and ARC (which are not abbreviations, so technically they don’t stand for anything) is “the reliability and the lifespan,” said Mumgaard. First you build a test plane and then you build the passenger plane, Mumgaard said.

SPARC “does most of the things the airliner does, but not all,” said Mumgaard. “It’s flexible to try, we can break it and fix it … so we can develop the technology and supply chains you need to build the next one.”