Controlled nuclear fusion, this is the dream of physicists. The promise of clean and unlimited energy. And many teams are working today to develop nuclear fusion reactors capable of producing electricity in this way.. A consortium has just published results which show that their project should be able to succeed.
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No less than seven scientific articles from 47 physicists working for 12 different institutions have just been published on this subject : the compact nuclear fusion reactor called Sparc should work. At least, this is what the theory says. "We are trying to place the project on the most solid physical basis possible, so that we are sure of its performance. Then we will provide advice and answers relating to the technical design as it unfolds ”, specifies Martin Greenwald, researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (WITH, United States) in a press release.
Construction of the SPARC compact nuclear fusion reactor set to begin in June 2021 and be completed within three or four years. With the aim of producing electricity from 2035.
Remember that the Sparc project, it is quite simply one of the largest privately funded projects of its kind. Slap flour. A "hot plasma" reactor that must fuse isotopes of hydrogen to form helium, in a self-sustaining reaction and without additional energy input. And according to the calculations of the researchers involved, it should therefore be able to produce at least twice — maybe even up to ten times — more fusion energy than the amount needed to initiate the reaction. A real feat, because no one has yet been able to achieve such a level of profitability.
The performances announced are comparable to those expected for the pharaonic Iter project, the international thermonuclear experimental reactor, the assembly phase of which has just been launched in France. But for a much smaller reactor. All this while counting on the progress made on the side of superconducting magnets which allow a much stronger magnetic field to confine the hot plasma.
Here, a cross section of the Sparc nuclear fusion reactor, un tokamak compact, whose construction is due to start in June 2021 with the objective of creating and confining a "hot plasma" to produce energy by nuclear fusion. © CFS/MIT-PSFC – CAD rendering by T. Henderson
Even though there are still locks to be broken, the work seems to be going smoothly. The physicists of the consortium are now confident : they will manage to produce more energy than they consume.
Many design details of the nuclear fusion reactor are still being worked out. For example, researchers are working to specify how to ensure their energy supply, how to deal with sudden thermal or power transients or, how and where to measure key parameters to monitor reactor operation. For now, two years since the project was launched, only minor changes have been made. The diameter of the nuclear fusion reactor has been increased by approximately 12 %, for example.
“There is also a lot to learn about the physics of plasma combustion., recognizes Martin Greenwald. In particular, it will be necessary to understand the mechanisms of plasma self-heating. But once this reactor is operational, key information will be obtained which will help pave the way for commercial fusion devices and producing near inexhaustible energy ”.
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World news – FR – Nuclear fusion : MIT's Sparc reactor is expected to operate soon