MIT Finds New Way To Make Plasma Fuel Hot Enough To Produce Endless Clean Energy

An almost limitless supply of clean energy has been brought one step closer to reality.

As promising as it may seem and as easy as it sounds, scientists for more than a decade have been trying to produce energy from nuclear fusion but they have never been able to produce satisfying results. In almost all of the cases, the nuclear fusion ended up using a lot of energy rather than producing it.

No wonder the reality of a nuclear fusion reactor producing endless amounts of clean energy sounds something out of a science fiction movie.

However, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) claim to have developed a new base of special conductors that will allow the reactors withstand immense heat and give them the capability to generate clean energy.

A picture showing the inside of the Alcator C-Mod reactor used by the MIT.

The fusion reactor mimics the same chemical process that takes place in stars, wherein many atoms vibrate vigorously, become hot, and smash into each other. This, in turn, creates larger atoms and releases large amount of energy.

However, the crazy high temperatures indicate the reaction cannot be conducted on a solid material, to which the solution is holding the plasma through a magnetic field.

An image showing a twist in the plasma within a Tokamak reactor.

Moreover, the special material used to conduct this experiment is made up of a very rare compound, called the Yttrium Barium Copper Oxide. Experts claim the compound produces a good amount of magnetic force and produces tenfold results, even though it is smaller than the current conductors used by the scientists.

“These higher energy ranges are in the same range as activated fusion products,” says Dr John Wright, who is a researcher from this project. “To be able to create such energetic ions in a non-activated device not doing a huge amount of fusion is beneficial, because we can study how ions with energies comparable to fusion reaction products behave, how well they would be confined.”

During trials, the new plasma has resulted in raising trace amounts of ions to megaelectronvolt energies. MIT says the change the material of the conductor will not have an effect on how the energy is made, but it will produce the energy more efficiently.

The Daily Mail explains:

“In most reactors, the plasma would be made up of just two ion species – deuterium and hydrogen or deuterium and helium-3, with deuterium dominating the mixture by up to 95 per cent. But the new approach uses a fuel made up of three ion species: hydrogen, deuterium, and trace amounts of helium-3. The scientists focus energy on the helium-3, which heats up too much higher energies because of its smaller fraction of the total density. This allows the plasma to reach the range of activated fusion products.”

Source: The Daily Mail, WBUR, Phys.Org

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