The United Kingdom switched on its newest fusion reactor last week, and the ST40 has already hit a milestone. The tokamak reactor already generated plasma within the core.
[Image Source: Tokamak Energy]
The reactor, created by Tokamak Energy, should heat plasma to 100 million degrees Celsius (or 180 million degrees Fahrenheit) by 2018. That's seven times hotter than the Sun's core temperature. It's at that temperature that fusion can occur -- where hydrogen can fuse into helium and produce unlimited clean energy.
"Today is an important day for fusion energy development in the UK and the world," said David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy, the company behind ST40. "We are unveiling the first world-class controlled fusion device to have been designed, built and operated by a private venture. The ST40 is a machine that will show fusion temperatures - 100 million degrees - are possible in compact, cost-effective reactors. This will allow fusion power to be achieved in years, not decades."
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two nuclei come together and form an element of a higher atomic number. The energy released is what could supply the world with a fresh power resource.
The promises of nuclear fusion have scientists from around the globe investing in its potential. Last October, MIT set a record for plasma pressure. Last December, a South Korean team set the record for sustaining 'high performance' plasma --- 300 million degrees Celsius -- for 70 seconds. Germany's Wendelstein 7-X stellerator succeeded in controlling plasma. All global signs are leading to leaps forward rather than inching forward like the technology has for decades.
However, challenges still exist. One of the biggest issues with regard to sustaining nuclear power is maintaining costs. Companies like Tokamak Energy continue to look for both short-term and long-term goals to commercially produce fusion energy. Kingham expounded on more of those challenges in a statement:
“We will still need significant investment, many academic and industrial collaborations, dedicated and creative engineers and scientists, and an excellent supply chain. Our approach continues to be to break the journey down into a series of engineering challenges, raising additional investment on reaching each new milestone. We are already half-way to the goal of fusion energy; with hard work, we will deliver fusion power at commercial scale by 2030.”
The ST40 also represents stage three of a five-stage plan for the Tokamak Energy company. The private business stems from Oxfordshire England.
Featured Image Source: Tokamak Energy via Instagram