In a major scientific achievement, researchers at the Joint European Torus (JET) facility have set a world energy record of 69 megajoules released in sustained and controlled fusion energy. Another boost for ITER, the future European large-scale reactor.
Since the 1950s, scientists have attempted to produce more energy from nuclear fusion than it consumes. In December 2022, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (California) achieved a historic feat. For the first time, they recovered more energy than the fuel absorbed to make it: 3 megajoules of energy using just two, meaning a 50% energy gain.
In nuclear fusion, energy is released when the nuclei of atoms fuse with each other to form a larger nucleus. In this way the Sun produces energy. However, in nuclear fission, which is used by nuclear power plants, nuclei break apart to form smaller nuclei, which release energy.
Unlike fission reactions, fusion reactions do not produce carbon or long-lasting radioactive waste, and can become a practically inexhaustible source of electricity generation, because their fuel is two isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium), which are very abundant in nature due to the large proportion of water on the Earth's surface. Those are all advantages and the only problem that needs to be solved is how to get the net energy gain from nuclear fusion.
New step towards fusion
In this process of reaching the holy grail of energy production, another relevant development has now occurred: the fusion reactor. united european torus (JET) of Great Britain set an energy record in its latest experiment.
It produced 69 megajoules of energy from just 0.2 mg of deuterium-tritium fuel. This means it achieved more energy than any previous fusion experiment: the researchers reported that this record is equivalent to the energy released by burning 2 kilograms of coal.
However, it had to use more energy to heat the plasma produced by nuclear fusion, so there was no net energy gain, as Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory did.
However, the JET record is 20 times the amount of energy released at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which used a different approach to fusion to generate more energy than was absorbed by the fuel. The JET team's new achievement surpasses their previous world records of 59 megajoules (2022) and 22.7 megajoules (1997).
The researchers reported that JET scientists were able to reliably reproduce the fusion conditions required for the new record in multiple experimental pulses, demonstrating the understanding and control they have achieved over complex fusion processes.
The highlight of this achievement is that it provides important information for the future large-scale European reactor ITER (Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), the world's largest and most advanced fusion experiment, which was established in 2007 and With the cooperation of 35 countries (among them Spain).
The objectives of ITER, which is still under construction, are to achieve nuclear fusion with a net gain of energy, as well as to maintain fusion over long periods of time, objectives to which the new experiment contributes.
“Perhaps even more interesting to me than the record is what we have achieved in terms of operational scenarios for ITER,” explains the head of Eurofusion's Tokamak Exploitation Working Group. Emmanuel JoffrinFrom CEA, French member of Eurofusion.
“Not only did we demonstrate how to smooth out the intense heat flowing from the plasma into the exhaust, but we also showed in JET how we could get the edge of the plasma to a steady state, thus preventing the burst of energy from reaching the wall.” Can be prevented from reaching. Both technologies are intended to protect the integrity of the walls of future machines. He added, “This is the first time we've been able to test those scenarios in a deuterium-tritium environment.”
Specific upgrades over the past decade have brought JET's technical specifications as close as possible to ITER's technical specifications, allowing studies that will allow the future machine to begin working when it comes into operation.
Dr. fernanda reminiJET's scientific operations leader says: “We can reliably create fusion plasmas using the same fuel mixtures that commercial fusion energy power plants would use, demonstrating the advanced expertise developed over time.”
The protagonists of this achievement believe that this creates greater confidence in the development of fusion energy. “In addition to setting a record, we achieved things we had never done before and thereby deepened our understanding of the physics of fusion,” says the professor. Ambrogio FasoliProgram Director (CEO) of Eurofusion.
JET has been the world's largest and most successful fusion experiment and a central research facility of the European Fusion Programme. The machine is located at the UKAEA campus in Culham, UK, and is a collective facility used by European fusion researchers under the direction of the consortium. eurofusion,
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