Private fusion energy firm Tokamak Energy recently posted an update on its progress towards unlocking the energy of the Sun. The Oxford, U.K.-based company presented the latest results from tests of its ST40 compact spherical tokamak prototype last month, a press statement reveals.
The results showed that the ST40 achieved the conditions required for the hottest plasma temperatures ever achieved in a spherical tokamak.
Unlocking the power of the Sun
Tokamaks are reactors that are being developed by organizations including Tokamak Energy, as well as the Bill Gates-backed Commonwealth Fusion Systems, and the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy, which recently set a new record by running its reactor at one million degrees for 30 seconds.
Though other tokamaks, such as the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy's JSTAR, have achieved higher temperatures than Tokamak Energy's machine, the latter company believes the type of machine it is developing will be crucial for making viable commercial fusion a reality. ""Conventional" tokamaks have achieved higher temperatures previously, but in much larger devices," the company says in its press statement. "The key to the development of commercial fusion energy is to achieve stable plasma at these high temperatures in compact devices, such as the spherical tokamak. Tokamak Energy is approaching the major milestone of 100 million degree plasma temperature."
'It's not a question of if, it's a question of when'
In theory, nuclear fusion reactors can already produce limitless energy. The key to making commercial fusion viable, however, is in producing more energy than the machines require to function in the first place. Nuclear fusion is the reaction the Sun and stars use to produce energy for eons. In the reaction, two atoms slam together to form a heavier nucleus, releasing massive amounts of energy. In a tokamak, incredibly powerful magnets are required to control and stabilize burning plasma at incredibly high temperatures.
In a video interview with the BBC, Chris Kelsall, CEO of Tokamak Energy said "it's not a question of if, it's a question of when. The answer is out there right now with Mother Nature as we speak. What we have to do is find the key and unlock the safe to that solution. It will be found." If Tokamak Energy and other nuclear fusion firms do unlock the power of the Sun, they will have produced a method that produces practically no waste, meaning they could help the world finally turn its back on fossil fuels.