In the UK, last week launched a new experimental thermonuclear reactor ST40. The system has already generated a “first plasma”. The ultimate goal: to heat the plasma inside the tokamak to a temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius, which is seven times more than in the center of the sun, by 2018. This is a kind of “threshold” in which helium begins to form from hydrogen atoms. The reaction also creates a huge amount of energy that can be used for other purposes.
“Today is an important day for the development of thermonuclear power not only in the UK, but throughout the world,” commented David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy, who created the ST40 reactor.
“We are opening the world’s first controlled device for a thermonuclear reaction, which was designed and built by a private enterprise. The ST40 reactor, which will soon reach the temperature of a thermonuclear environment – 100 million degrees Celsius – is very compact and cost-effective. Its discovery will make it possible to achieve thermonuclear power in the next few years, not decades. ”
The thermonuclear reaction is the process that feeds our Sun. If mankind finds out how to master this process with the help of controlled methods, then we will open the door to a source of virtually infinite and pure energy that practically does not create any pollution. Unlike nuclear fusion, which is now achieved within conventional nuclear reactors, thermonuclear fusion involves fusion rather than atom separation. The process of this synthesis is somewhat more complicated, and the production of helium is a by-product of the process. And, of course, a huge amount of energy.
Despite the great promise, scientists have encountered great difficulties in developing thermonuclear reactors. The process involves the use of high-power magnets, which create a magnetic field to control charged and heated up to unimaginable plasma temperatures. Maintaining a stable plasma state is critically important for energy production. This is what complexity is all about.
However, in the past year in this aspect, very significant results have been achieved. Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in October set a record density of the created plasma, and in December, South Korean researchers were the first to achieve the maintenance of a “high-performance” plasma with a temperature of up to 300 million degrees Celsius within 70 seconds. In Germany, too, there has been progress. There, when testing a new thermonuclear reactor, called the Wendelstein 7-X stellator, also successfully controlled the plasma.
But we are still far from having to “put all the parts together” and find an affordable way of producing a stable plasma with the temperature necessary to create a thermonuclear fusion reaction.
The British ST40 is a tokamak. In it, high-power magnetic coils are used to control the plasma generated in the toroidal core. The next step is to install all the magnetic coils inside the reactor itself and test the system’s operability. Tokamak Energy physicists are going to use them to create a plasma temperature of 15 degrees Celsius, and in 2018 hope to achieve a reaction of 100 million degrees. The output for the production of clean energy in the UK is promised by 2030.