A team led by Zach Hartwig of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US has succeeded in creating a magnetic field of 20 Tesla, or 400,000 times that of Earth’s magnetic field, using a superconducting magnet that conducts electricity without overheating.
But more than just a record, this feat is above all a real hope of finally controlling nuclear fusion by magnetic confinement, which consists in fusing hydrogen atoms in order to generate clean, sustainable energy. Because this fusion produces more energy than it consumes, and thus becomes manufacturable, the magnetic field must be enormous as it is created by facilities of reasonable size. “The strength of the magnetic field generated is an excellent lever to reduce the size of the fixtures, as it greatly improves the thermal insulation and stability of hydrogen fusion”Nod Dennis White, director of the Center for Plasma and Fusion Sciences at MIT. Thus, the size of the future Sparc demonstrator, which will be completed in 2025 in the United States, should be 40 times smaller than the size of its European competitor Iter. Eighteen superconducting magnets similar to Zach Hartwig’s magnets will equip it, thus potentially demonstrating the profitability of this fusion technology.
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