MIT scientists have developed the world’s strongest high temperature superconducting magnet (HTS).
According to the team from MIT spin-out Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) and MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC), the record-breaking superconducting magnet could pave way for practical, commercial, nuclear fusion.
In a test conducted at PSFC, the scientists proved that the magnet built at scale can reach a sustained magnetic field of more than 20 tesla.
This sort of magnetic field is enough to enable CFS’s compact tokamak device SPARC to achieve net energy from fusion.
“This record-breaking magnet is the culmination of the last three years of work and will give the world a clear path to fusion power for the first time,” says CFS CEO Bob Mumgaard.
“The world needs a fundamentally new technology that will support efforts to decarbonize on a timeline that can mitigate climate change.”
“This test of our magnet proves we have that technology, and we’re on our way to producing clean, limitless energy for the entire world.”
In order to build the magnets, the team used new commercially available high temperature superconductors (HTS).
Existing tokamaks rely on device scale to attempt net energy. HTS magnets on the other hand enable a high-field approach that could ensure CFS reaches net energy from fusion with a device that is substantially smaller, lower cost, and on a faster timeline.
This is significant as tokamaks use low-temperature superconducting magnets that require them to be enormous in size to create the magnetic field needed to attempt to achieve net energy.
CFS HTS magnets subverts this need as they enable significantly stronger magnetic fields and as a result significantly smaller tokamaks.
This HTS magnet technology will next be used in SPARC, which is under construction in Devens, Massachusetts and on track to demonstrate net energy from fusion by 2025.
According to the scientists, SPARC will pave the way for the first commercially viable fusion power plant called ARC.
Image and content: Gretchen Ertl/The Engineer