Fusion – “the process that powers the sun” – releases energy when two atomic nuclei bump to each other, fusing together, resulting in one bigger nucleus. It is known as the source capable of generating the most energy so far, making it a very important delegate in providing affordable, accessible, and cleaner energy.
“The benefits of fusion power are globally recognized. But the process of creating and commercializing fusion energy is a considerable scientific and engineering challenge,” writes Tokamak Energy, a company pioneering in making spherical tokamaks, on their webpage.
Invented by Russian physicists in the1950’s, a tokamak – short for “toroidal chamber with magnetic coils” – is a special device for containing hot plasma required in producing controlled fusion power. Currently, tokamaks are the leading candidate for a practical fusion reactor and come in various shapes and designs; and one of the smaller and offshoot designs is the spherical tokamak.
With its main objective of finding a compact solution to enable fusion to be implemented efficiently and quickly and supply energy to the grid, Tokamak Energy has set its target date to 2030. Its ST40, UK’s newest fusion reactor, has achieved its first plasma last May 2017– signifying that their plans and progress are on track. The next step is for ST40 to be as hot as the center of the sun, that is, to attain 15 million degree Celsius temperature.
To generate electricity from fusion by 2025, Tokamak Energy is set to create a larger tokamak but still smaller than other fusion reactors by applying their experiences with ST40. This reactor then becomes the foundation for generating electricity to supply grid by 2030.
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,” stated Tokamak Energy CEO David Kingham in a press release when ST40’s operation started.
Kingham is hopeful and believes that the company is already at its halfway meeting their target. “The goals on our route to achieving fusion power are bold and ambitious, but it is the challenge that must be tackled if we are to deliver the essential decarbonization of our energy supply,” writes Kingham in an Engineering Live article.