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March 30, 2023
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According to Cambridge University Press, at the very beginning of October, seven peer-reviewed articles have been published in the Journal of Plasma Physics by MIT and the Commonwealth Fusion Systems about the new technology that enables a functional and profitable fusion reactor.
This new fusion reactor could revolutionize the energy market, according to MIT, making previously-expensive projects more affordable. However, as MIT says, the SPARC it’s just an experiment, not an electrical plant.
During fusion, two light atoms are fused to form a more stable, greater atom releasing energy in the process. This, however, is only possible if the temperature is so high (up to millions of kelvins) that atoms are able to be close enough, repelling the electromagnetic force exerted by the nucleus, in a phase of matter called plasma. These temperatures can only be reached because of high pressure, like the one inside stars. That type of energy source is clean, since it doesn’t create any type of pollutant in the process, and, therefore, it is considered a potential energy source in the future (MIT).
This new reactor, called SPARC, is presumably able to fuse hydrogen to produce twice the energy it consumes (a remarkable fact considering that is the first prototype capable of getting net energy out of the process). This is, according to the Massachusetts Technology Institute, thanks to the usage of high-temperature superconductors which create the needed pressure and insolation for the plasma. Moreover, these superconductors lower the price of the maintenance and, also, of the reactor’s construction because they provide no resistance to the electrical current, only needing a temperature of 77K (-321.1oF) making the SPARC much more affordable and useful. That’s because a powerful magnet (the ones used by the MIT can theoretically produce 12T) allows the reactor to be smaller (the SPARC has a radius of only 1.65m) and still have great fusion power.
ARTICLE: SAMI CALVO
EDITOR: KYLE SMITH, SCIENCE EDITOR