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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A step closer to LIMITLESS energy

UK's latest nuclear fusion reactor could supply the grid with clean power by 2030
The heart of the Tokamak ST40 reactor will reach 100 million centigrade in 2018
Temperature could trigger nuclear fusion and release huge amounts of energy
And by 2030, the reactor will provide clean energy to the UK's national grid
Britain's newest fusion reactor has been fired up and taken the world one step further towards generating electricity from the power of the stars.
The heart of the Tokamak ST40 reactor - a super-hot cloud of electrically charged gas, or plasma - is expected to reach a temperature of 100 million centigrade next year.
That is how hot it needs to be to trigger fusion, the joining together of atomic nuclei accompanied by an enormous release of energy.
And by 2030, the reactor will provide clean energy to the UK's national grid, according to its creators Tokamak Energy.
Fusion involves placing hydrogen atoms under high heat and pressure until they fuse into helium atoms.
The same process enables stars to shine and in a less controlled way provides the destructive force of H-bombs.
The new reactor was built at Milton Park, Oxfordshire, by Tokamak Energy, a private company pioneering fusion power in the UK.
It is Tokamak Energy's third upgraded reactor and represents the latest step in a five-stage plan to bring fusion power to the national grid by 2030.
Fusion power holds out the promise of almost unlimited supplies of clean energy. It uses special forms of hydrogen as fuel, produces no greenhouse gases, and the only waste product is helium.
But harnessing and raining in the mighty forces involved is a daunting challenge.
The plasma, which at 100m C is seven times hotter than the centre of the sun, has to be contained in a doughnut-shaped 'magnetic bottle'.
The tokamak is the most developed magnetic confinement system and is the basis for the design of fusion reactors.
Plasma is contained in a vacuum vessel, which is then heated by driving a current through it.
A combination of two sets of magnetic coils creates a field in both vertical and horizontal directions, acting as a magnetic 'cage' to hold and shape the plasma.
The heating provided by the plasma current supplies a third of the 100 million°C temperature required to make fusion occur.
Additional plasma heating is provided when neutral hydrogen atoms are injected at high speed into the plasma, ionized and trapped by the magnetic field. As they are slowed down, they transfer their energy to the plasma and heat it.
High-frequency currents are also induced in the plasma by external coils.
The frequencies are chosen to match regions where the energy absorption is very high.
In this way, large amounts of power may be transferred to the plasma.
Some way has also got to be found to turn the energy of fast-moving elementary particles into electricity.
Speaking after the ST40 reactor was officially turned on and achieved 'first plasma', Tokamak Energy chief executive Dr David Kingham said: 'Today is an important day for fusion energy development in the UK, and the world.
'We are unveiling the first world-class controlled fusion device to have been designed, built and operated by a private venture.
'The ST40 is a machine that will show fusion temperatures - 100 million degrees - are possible in compact, cost-effective reactors.
This will allow fusion power to be achieved in years, not decades.'
He said the project, now half way to the goal of fusion energy, still needed 'significant investment'.
To date, the company has raised £20 million from private contributors.
Dr Kingham added: 'Our approach continues to be to break the journey down into a series of engineering challenges, raising additional investment on reaching each new milestone.'…/uks-latest-nuclear-fusion-re…/

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