Plans were unveiled for a private fusion reactor in the UK powered by “smoke rings” and pneumatic pistons. General Fusion pilots will compress a plasma ring with hundreds of pistons inside the fusion plant. A Canadian company, one of several betting on alternative fusion power methods, announced today that it will begin construction of a pilot power plant in the UK next year.
Plans were unveiled
Financially backed by the UK government and 70% the size needed for a commercial power plant, the plant will not generate power, but will instead demonstrate the viability of the company’s merger approach after a fire in 2025, says the CEO Christopher Mowry of Vancouver. General fusion. De. “This is the first major public-private partnership to merge,” says Mowry.
The pilot plant will cost several hundred million dollars and will be built on the premises of the UK Atomic Energy Authority on the outskirts of Oxford, which is also home to the Culham Center for Fusion Energy, a joint European bull, reactor of world’s largest merger in operation. United. Kingdom Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak Upgrade Reactor.
Fusion advocates applauded the announcement by the 19-year-old company, which has raised $ 300 million from a combination of public and private sources. “General Fusion is a key player in the growing fusion industry,” says Melanie Windridge, Director of the UK Fusion Industry Association. “They have raised significant investment for their magnetic target fusion concept, and we look forward to seeing their fusion demonstration plant come to life.”
For decades, fusion, the powerhouse of stars, has lured researchers and investors with the promise of fuel-abundant carbon-free energy. The problem is that hydrogen nuclei require extreme temperatures and pressures to overcome their mutual repulsion and fuse into helium in a reaction that releases energy. No fusion reactor has operated sufficiently or efficiently to produce more energy than it spends to sustain the reaction.
ITER, the great international reactor project in France, is the first to “benefit” this energy. The device relies on giant superconducting magnets to capture ionized gas, or plasma, in a donut-shaped container when heated with microwaves and particle beams. But the more than $ 20 billion project has advanced at a glacier-like pace: It is planned to be operational in 2025, but is not expected to show energy gains until after 2035. This has opened space for Agile startups try to get there quickly. with other techniques.
General Fusion uses a method called magnetized target fusion. An injector generates a plasma loop like a ring of cigarette smoke, which through its rotating movement creates a magnetic field that holds the cloud of particles together. During the short life of the plasma ring, it is compressed at temperatures and pressures where fusion must ignite.
The company has been fine-tuning its plasma injectors for years and says it can now spit out rings that last several tens of milliseconds – more than enough for such particle clouds to be an eon and fusion to occur. “We can make the best autonomous plasma in the world,” says Mowry. Rival company TAE Technologies also relies on plasma rings and can hold them for the same duration. But instead of compressing its rings, the TAE retains them and heats them with the particle beam.
With the pilot plant, General Fusion wants to demonstrate the benefits of its compression-based approach. The plasma ring is fired into a chamber with a rotating liquid lithium layer, which is used to absorb the high-energy particles ejected by fusion that could otherwise damage the reactor.
When the plasma reaches the center of the chamber, hundreds of pneumatic pistons strike outside the reactor wall in carefully timed pulses that push the lithium inward and compress the plasma circularly to the point of ignition. A commercial reactor would have to squeeze rings of fresh plasma with pulses every few seconds to produce an economical amount of electricity.
Mowry says the pilot plant aims to reach melt-relevant temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius and demonstrate that the entire process can be economical. It would use a relatively unreactive fuel of pure deuterium, a hydrogen isotope with a neutron, rather than a deuterium-tritium (D-T) mixture using a full-size commercial power reactor.
This helps the pilot project avoid a rare radioactive tritium source and cope with the excess heat and radioactivity generated. A working reactor would reproduce its own tritium using the radiation produced by the fusion reaction to break down some lithium coatings.
If the pilot plant can squeeze plasma long enough and at a sufficient density at 100 million degrees Celsius, then DT fusion will work as the principle has already been demonstrated by public fusion efforts, says Mowry. “We are inside the envelope of the knowledge base,” he says. With the pilot plant, the company focuses more on practicality and economy. Current knowledge “turns challenges into engineering.”
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