Energy based on power of stars is step closer after nuclear fusion heat record

04 Mar, 2024
Image: UK Atomic Energy Authority

The prospect of a green energy source based on the power of the stars has received a boost after scientists set a world record for the amount of energy created by fusing atoms together.

Researchers at the Joint European Torus (JET), an experimental fusion reactor at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, generated 69 megajoules of energy over five seconds from a mere 0.2 milligrams of fuel in the final fusion experiment performed at the facility.

The burst of energy, equivalent to 16.5kg of TNT, was described as a “fitting swansong” for the project, which has pioneered technology for future commercial fusion reactors since it began operating in 1983. It beat the previous record of 59 megajoules of heat, set by the same facility in 2022.

If fusion power is shown to be viable at scale, future reactors could drive a green energy revolution. One kilogram of fusion fuel contains about 10m times more energy than a kilogram of coal, oil or gas, and fusion reactions do not release greenhouse gases.

Experiments at JET have explored the feasibility of using two isotopes of hydrogen, known as deuterium and tritium, as fuel. In fusion reactions, the two combine to produce helium gas. The record-breaking pulse of energy is encouraging for Iter, a larger fusion project being built in the south of France. That reactor aims to start burning fusion fuel in 2035 with the goal of generating more energy that is used to heat the plasma.

Source: The Guardian

Image: UK Atomic Energy Authority

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