Physicists Examine If "Star In A Jar" Fusion Reactor Could Give Us Unlimited Energy

Can we really harness the power of the Sun and end our reliance on fossil fuels?

29/08/2016 10:31

Scientists have published a paper which evaluates an all-new design for a spherical fusion reactor which could, one day, provide us with a source of clean, limitless power.

Nuclear fusion has become something of a ‘holy grail’ technology when it comes to solving our energy crisis. It would effectively involve taking the same process that powers the sun, and recreating it down here on Earth giving us potentially unlimited energy.

There’s just one problem, it’s really really hard to do.

To contain the power of the sun you need to create a ‘jar’ within which you can control and sustain the superhot plasma needed to maintain a state of fusion within the reactor.

Elle StarkmanPPPL Office of Communications

Current designs for this ‘jar’ are essentially a spherical donut-shaped object within which you suspend the plasma using some of the most powerful magnets on the planet.

It’s incredibly expensive to do and even harder to maintain and so new spherical designs have been developed which can potentially keep the cost down.

These new designs are already being put into practise in the form of two brand-new experimental reactors, the NSTX-U at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab and MAST.

These reactors “will push the physics frontier, expand our knowledge of high temperature plasmas, and, if successful, lay the scientific foundation for fusion development paths based on more compact designs,” said PPPL Director Stewart Prager.

The new designs recommended in the paper are more compact allowing for more precise control over the plasma field, while scientists have suggests that the conventional magnets are replaced with superconducting magnets which would in turn allow for increased control.

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