Scientists near end to reliance on fossil fuels
World’s first commercial fusion reactor promises limitless energy in just 10 years
More bad news for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and other crude oil products as the quest to end the world’s reliance on fossil fuels advances: a fusion power firm has raised $500 million (£405 million) to develop commercial fusion power.
According to a detailed report in Science, Tri Alpha Energy has already developed a machine that can hold hot plasma steady at 18 million°F (10 million°C) for 11.5 milliseconds.
The firm will use the funds to extend this time further and at even higher temperatures, and believes that it could have the world’s first commercial fusion reactor by 2027.
It is predicted that the advance further lead to fall in oil prices. Federal Government of Nigeria please note.
Fusion involves placing hydrogen atoms under high heat and pressure until they fuse into helium atoms. When deuterium and tritium nuclei – which can be found in hydrogen – fuse, they form a helium nucleus, a neutron and a lot of energy. This is down by heating the fuel to temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun.
Strong magnetic fields are used to keep the plasma away from the walls so that it doesn’t cool down and lost it energy potential. These are produced by superconducting coils surrounding the vessel, and by an electrical current driven through the plasma. For energy production. plasma has to be confined for a sufficiently long period for fusion to occur.
The particular type of fusion power Tri Alpha is working on is based on heating hydrogen atoms to temperatures of 5.4 billion°F (3 billion°C) – which is hotter than the surface of the sun. The heat creates plasma that has a mixture of electrons and ions. When ions in a plasma collide, they fuse together to form new atoms and release huge amounts of energy. It is a relatively simple concept, but the trick is in heating the gas to such a high temperature. Currently no known material can hold this heat.
Over the years, scientists have come up with two main methods to overcome this; cause an implosion that occurs rapidly, or use a magnetic field.
Tri Alpha Energy is using the latter option, but says it has made its breakthrough with an unusual reactor design – a long, tube that collides pairs of plasma donuts to produce heat.
According to a detailed report in Science, the team has placed magnets around a cigar shaped configuration that allows for firing angled plasma beams at one another.
The plasma that forms from its hydrogen and boron sample is then stabilised with beams of high-energy particles.
Tri Alpha is keeping many details about its project under wraps.
But Science has confirmed that the company now plans to create a fusion tube that boasts even more power and can reach hotter temperatures for longer periods of time.
Using this approach, the scientists were able to reportedly heat the gas up to 10 million °C for 11.5 milliseconds, at which point the machine ran out of fuel.
This, however, is still short of the 5.4 billion °F (3 billion °C) temperature needed to achieve a fusion reaction.
The team now plans to use the $500 million (£405 million) funding to improve its machine, dubbed C-2U, to achieve a ten-fold increase in temperature needed to create a fusion reactor design.
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