Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader: Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks: Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. A quench can lead to rapid, localized heating of the superconductor, potentially causing damage if the magnet is improperly designed or operated. This work is a potential game-changer for the international fusion program​.". Now, after many months of intensive research and engineering work, the researchers charged with defining and refining the physics behind the ambitious tokamak design have published a series of papers summarizing the progress they have made and outlining the key research questions SPARC will enable. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. YBCO superconductors have existed for a number of years, but they have only recently become commercially available in the quantity and quality required for fusion devices. Two and a half years ago, MIT entered into a research agreement with startup company Commonwealth Fusion Systems to develop a next-generation fusion research experiment, called SPARC, as … What we're trying to do is put the project on the firmest possible physics basis, so that we're confident about how it's going to perform, and then to provide guidance and answer questions for the engineering design as it proceeds.". SPARC is planned to be the first experimental device ever to achieve a “burning plasma” — that is, a self-sustaining fusion reaction in which different isotopes of the element hydrogen fuse together to form helium, without the need for any further input of energy.

Many of the fine details are still being worked out on the machine design, covering the best ways of getting energy and fuel into the device, getting the power out, dealing with any sudden thermal or power transients, and how and where to measure key parameters in order to monitor the machine’s operation. In short, he says, "one of the conclusions is that things are still looking on-track. The high power in a small size is made possible by advances in superconducting magnets that allow for a much stronger magnetic field to confine the hot plasma. Two and a half years ago, MIT entered into a research agreement with startup company Commonwealth Fusion Systems to develop a next-generation fusion research experiment, called SPARC, as … What sets SPARC apart from ITER, JET, and other previous fusion tokamaks will be its use of a new type of high-temperature superconductor (HTS), yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO). The diameter of the tokamak has been increased by about 12 percent, but little else has changed, Greenwald says. Considering the ambitions of the SPARC project, there is plenty of room for innovation and new ideas to address the various challenges in the development of fusion energy. The enormous size of ITER and the complexity of organizing many international partners have put the project far behind schedule and over budget, with a current expected peak performance date somewhere around 2035. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-3759129-1'); }); SPARC would be the size of existing mid-sized fusion devices, but with a much stronger magnetic field. "Their publication marks an important milestone on the road to the study of burning plasmas and the first demonstration of net energy production from controlled fusion, and I applaud the authors for putting this work out for all to see. Studying the behavior of this burning plasma — something never before seen on Earth in a controlled fashion — is seen as crucial information for developing the next step, a working prototype of a practical, power-generating power plant. The model HTS coil will therefore experimentally validate the heat removal capabilities in HTS magnet systems, and the lessons we learn from it will be critical in moving the SPARC project forward. The papers also describe the use of calculations and simulation tools for the design of SPARC, which have been tested against many experiments around the world.