Tokamak nuclear fusion reactors are doughnut-shaped chambers which have the potential to provide limitless clean energy. A UK company, Tokamak Energy claims to have achieved a new milestone in the field by heatings its ST40 device to 15 million degrees Celsius, the temperature found at the centre of the Sun.
The pursuit of nuclear fusion has been going on for quite some time. The process of hydrogen atoms combining to form helium atoms releases a huge amount of energy and we would have a limitless supply of energy if we could control this process. The process has an added benefit of having no harmful by-products.
In order to control the process, we need to have Sun-like conditions here on Earth. Tokamak Energy claims to have achieved that temperature through merging compression. This includes running high currents through two symmetrical magnet coils to generate two rings of plasma (electrically charged gas) around them.
When the coil current is later reduced to zero, the plasma rings are drawn to each other and combine into one. This combining together is what releases the huge amounts of energy that heats the plasma. There are magnets designed to stabilize the plasma streaming around the chamber to maximize the opportunity for fusion reactions.
Tokamak Energy has allegedly reached temperatures of over 15 million° C in their tokamak reactor but the team behind the project states that this is just the reactor warming up. They plan to hit temperatures as high as 100 million° C. The team says that this temperature is necessary to combine the isotopes of hydrogen together.
“The world needs abundant, controllable, clean energy,” says co-founder Dr David Kingham. “Our business plan is built on strong scientific foundations and this milestone is a significant step in our compact spherical tokamak route to fusion power.”
Jonathan Carling, CEO of Tokamak Energy explains the milestone achieved by the company in the video below: