A New Superconducting Magnet Broke Magnetic Field Strength Records

Set the controls for the heart of the sun.
Derya Ozdemir

A world powered by nuclear fusion always seems to be 30 years away. With years of study and no major success, public opinion on fusion energy has been comparable to that of a science-fiction technology.

And some people are naturally skeptical, for good reason. The conditions for nuclear fusion to happen are quite extreme, like those found at the core of stars. Up until now, in the experiments that were conducted, the whole process required more energy than it produced. This net power output is usually measured by a metric denoted as Q, which is just the ratio of power produced to the power consumed. So far, our best efforts yielded a Q of 0.7.

However, a recent breakthrough might change that. By using high-temperature superconductors, researchers at the Commonwealth Fusion Systems claim that they could build a fully operational fusion powerplant, with a Q above 10! Their design is called SPARC, and they just completed the final proof of concept they needed before they could start building their reactor. They achieved a magnetic field strength of 20 teslas, which is the highest magnetic flux density ever produced with high-temperature superconductors at this scale. To learn more, take a look at this video by the YouTube channel Undecided with Matt Ferrell, where he interviews Dr. Martin Greenwald, a Deputy Director, and Senior Research Scientist at MIT.

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