Landmark results from EUROfusion scientists and engineers at world-leading Joint European Torus (JET) facility in Oxford, UK
Record-breaking 59 megajoules of sustained fusion energy
Results fully in line with predictions, strengthening the case for ITER
Fusion energy can provide a safe, efficient and low-carbon energy supply
Press Conference Explained:
Fusion Energy Is No Longer An Experiment
A fusion reaction of 59 megajoules provides the details
By Anthony Gerillo - Editor, FENi
February 9th, 2022, a large group of dedicated scientists and engineers provided the proof that fusion energy is no longer an experiment.
As scientists and engineers usually do, they presented a highly detailed and technically difficult explanation of their findings. So, for those of us without a degree in physics, I will attempt to explain what has been achieved.
EUROfusion is a consortium of EU member states along with the UK that administer the Joint Experimental Torus known as JET. Torus comes from the toroidal shape of the inside of a tokamak. A tokamak is a type of fusion reactor.
JET was commissioned in 1984 to begin the assembly of what was known at the time as the best way to produce fusion energy and to test the physics. Many experiments have occurred over the years. Until December 21st, 2021, the most important JET experiment was in 1997 when JET set the last fusion record of 21 megajoules of fusion energy. This experiment led directly to the data needed to begin the next step in the realization of fusion energy and in 2007 the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor known as ITER was commissioned. ITER is the largest ever experiment undertaken by humanity and will lead to commercial use of magnetic confinement fusion for net-zero carbon energy.
To keep this explanation simple, there are two outcomes from the 1997 experiment that changed the JET tokamak design for implementation into the ITER design. Today, one of the most important elements of a fusion reactor is “plasma facing materials”. Plasma is known as the 4th state of matter. The first three are gas, liquid and solid. Plasma is achieved by the superheating of elements and in this case, JET uses Deuterium and Tritium which are isotopes of Hydrogen. We will get back to this. The experiment in 1997 produced results that showed that the plasma facing reactor material (the walls of the reactor) needed to be beryllium. Beryllium was chosen for several reasons, and you can research the data, but for this article you only need to know that it changed the ITER design to the best know material.
The other important data gained from the 1997 experiment was the percentage mixture of Deuterium to Tritium (D-T) fuel needed to be adjusted. It is important to note that there is only a very minute amount of fuel needed to produce fusion energy. In JET experiments they use milligrams of D-T. Optimal percentages were achieved and were employed in the 2021 reaction. This also allowed ITER to adjust their designs.
There are two more data points that need to be considered. They didn’t play out in the 1997 JET experiment but have been incorporated since. These are superconducting magnets and artificial intelligence. Both were really only in the beginning of their developments in 1997. Because of the JET experiments, ITER is currently installing the superconducting magnets. A.I. is allowing the entire industry to accurately model entire systems prior to building them. It is very important to note that the 2021 experiment was of course modeled and as the Britts like to say, they were “spot on.” In reviewing the data charts from the experiment, they were nearly identical to the modeling.
Why are these specific data points so important? Mainly, the fact that ITER is a 25 billion (euro), massive facility that would be difficult to amend once built. This experiment provides shared information that will be used by scientists internationally.
Besides the JET experiments there are over 100 tokamaks around the world in government laboratories and universities that are continuously running fusion experiments. This is building a shared knowledge base for moving to commercial fusion energy.
This modeling and data that predicted the out come of the experiment is already being used by scientific and commercial ventures to move fusion forward at an unprecedent pace. Materials and manufacturing technologies such as additive manufacturing are likely to bring fusion power to the grid sooner than ITER can be fully powered in 2035. However, ITER was not built for providing power to the grid, rather it is required for providing future experimental data that will refine and improve our clean energy future.
For further information on all of the data collected by the JET experiment, we suggest you visit the EUROfusion website at: www.euro-fusion.org You can find a wonderfully detailed ITER website at: www.iter.org
For a list of some 20+ commercial fusion energy companies that are on the cusp of providing energy from several different types of fusion technologies we suggest the Fusion Industry Association at: www.fusionindustryassociation.org
Here are the Fusion Energy News International Top 5 commercial fusion providers to pay attention to:
Commonwealth Fusion Systems: https://cfs.energy/
General Fusion: https://generalfusion.com/
TAE Technologies: https://tae.com/
Helion Energy: https://www.helionenergy.com/
Tokamak Energy: https://www.tokamakenergy.co.uk/
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