Nuclear fusion has long been deemed as the ultimate solution to humanity acquiring free, clean; nearly carbon-free and unlimited energy. Now, a new world record has been achieved by an MIT team when they generated the highest plasma record to have ever been produced.
The scientists used an Alcator C-Mod tokamak reactor to increase plasma pressure inside the machine to more than two atmospheres, 16 percent higher than the previous record that was set in 2005. The temperature reportedly reached a scorching 35 million Celsius, about twice as hot as the sun's core, and lasting for two seconds.
MIT Success Points Toward Magnetic Field As Key In Achieving Unlimited Energy
"This is a remarkable achievement," said Dale Meade, former deputy director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. "The record plasma pressure validates the high-magnetic-field approach as an attractive path to practical fusion energy."
The Alcator C-Mod is located at MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center. It uses a high-magnetic field to contain the superheated plasma needed for nuclear fusion, reported the Guardian.
The breakthrough strengthens the assumption that magnetic field is the most promising path to achieving near unlimited energy, although other avenues are still being explored. Successful fusion dictates that the energy produced should exceed the energy spent when superheating a plasma.
To achieve this, a combination of pressure, temperature and time are needed so it can leap through the critical value, which will then make the reactor self-sustaining. While this goal still remains elusive to scientists, the current breakthrough provides further insight in unlocking this worthy endeavor.
Massive Nuclear Reactor Being Built In France Poised To Smash Current Record Set
Despite its recent success, however, the Alcator C-Mod has performed its last operation as funding from the US Department of Energy has now ended. The U.S., along with EU, China, India, South Korea, Russia, and Japan are banking their fusion funding into an enormous reactor that's currently being built in France.
Called the ITER, or the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, it is reportedly being built to have magnets weighing as much as a Boeing 747 and will be 800 times bigger compare to what the MIT employs.
Experts believe that upon completion, the ITER will likely break the record made by the Alcator C-Mod, according to Techradar. The massive reactor will be finished around 15-20 years from now, which aims to generate 500MW of power similar to what large fission reactor produces.
But this isn't to say that the tokamak will become obsolete. Private companies are looking into possibilities of carrying out small-scale nuclear fusion reactors and the recent success of the MIT team proves that this is plausible indeed.