On December 21, 2021 a group of researchers saw a nuclear fusion reaction take place that generated a record-breaking 59 megajoules of energy in just a mere five seconds through using sustained fusion energy.
Scientists at the UK-based JET laboratory have achieved a major breakthrough in their quest to develop nuclear fusion.
“We can create a mini star inside of our machine and get high performance and high power,” said Dr Joe Milnes.
The ITER facility in southern France is supported by world governments and is expected to be the last step in proving nuclear fusion can become a reliable energy provider in the second half of this century.
Fusion power works by forcing together atomic nuclei rather than splitting them, and the Sun has a core temperature of around 10 million Celsius.
Scientists have devised a solution to achieve fusion in a lab, where a super-heated gas is held inside a doughnut-shaped magnetic field.
The announcement of fusion power won’t help to lessen the effects of climate change.
The government has pledged to get all electricity in the UK to be carbon-free by 2035, but fusion is not a solution to this problem.
A new lining for the 80-cubic metre toroidal vessel enclosing the magnetic field was constructed out of the metals beryllium and tungsten, which is 10 times less absorbent than carbon.
This is a stunning result because they demonstrated the greatest amount of energy output from the fusion reactions of any device in history, and also because they demonstrated stability over five seconds.
The Jet lab’s copper electromagnets get too hot, but the French lab’s toroidal vessel volume will be 10 times the size of JET’s. Ultimately, the new reactor will get to breakeven, and the energy generated from the reactor will be fed into electricity grids.
“Fusion takes a long time, it is complex, it is difficult,” said Dr Athina Kappatou. “We must ensure that we have the scientists, engineers, and technical staff who can take things forward.”
The UK is a participant in ITER, but its full involvement requires that Britain associate to certain EU science programmes.