On August 8, 2021, researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, California succeeded in initiating nuclear ignition in a small capsule of heavy hydrogen isotopes, proving that the fusion process could be started by using powerful lasers; now, hot on the heels of last year’s breakthrough, researchers at the same
On November 24, the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research fusion reactor (KSTAR) set a new operating record, running at over a million degrees Celsius for twenty seconds. While this might seem like a less-than-useful amount of time to have run the high-tech facility at peak temperature, this 20-second uptime is more than
Defense contractor Lockheed Martin was recently awarded a patent for a novel design of compact nuclear fusion reactor, a device presumably small enough to be housed in a standard shipping container. According to earlier promotional material released by the company, the reactor’s compact design could be used not only for commercial energy-generating applications, but also incorporated into ocean-going ships and aircraft to vastly extend the vehicles’ ranges. In terms of generating electricity for commercial use, the device could also be used to replace not only nuclear waste-producing fission reactors, but also fossil fuel-based electrical generators, dramatically reducing the carbon footprint of our civilization’s thirst for energy.
A joint team of researchers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and private company Commonwealth Fusion Systems is predicting that they will have a viable nuclear fusion reactor generating electricity and attached to the electrical grid within the next fifteen years.
A recent breakthrough in superconductor technology that involves the use of steel tape coated with a compound called yttrium-barium-copper oxide (YBCO) allows reactor designers to shrink the size of the magnets that contain the super-hot plasma fuel within the reactor, making them more powerful, and thus lowering the amount of energy required to run the reactor.