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Fusion Energy: A Leap Forward in Superconductivity

By Dick Weisinger

The quest for practical fusion energy, a clean and virtually limitless power source, has been a scientific dream for decades. Recent advances, particularly in high-temperature superconductivity, have brought us closer to making this dream a reality.

At the forefront of these developments is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where researchers have achieved a significant breakthrough. They have created a superconducting electromagnet that can generate a magnetic field of 20 tesla, the strongest of its kind ever created on Earth. This magnet, made from a high-temperature superconducting material, is a key component in a fusion reactor design.

This achievement is not just impressive in a lab setting but is also practical and economically viable. The use of this new superconducting material allows for a much stronger magnetic field in a smaller space, changing the cost per watt of a fusion reactor by a factor of almost 40 in one day.

Several companies are also making strides in fusion energy. Commonwealth Fusion Systems, an MIT spinoff, is developing energy through an inexhaustible power plant using rare-earth barium copper oxide superconductor technology. Other companies like TAE Technologies, Helion Energy, and General Fusion are also working on various aspects of fusion energy.

The implications of these advancements are profound. Fusion energy could provide a solution to the world’s growing energy demands without contributing to climate change. It could also help end our overreliance on geographically limited, globally traded, environmentally detrimental, and ultimately finite commodities.

Future improvements in fusion energy are likely to focus on increasing the stability and longevity of plasma, a crucial step toward continuous energy production. There is also ongoing research into improving both cycle efficiency and power availability, along with production standardization and long-life components.

While the timeline for the realization of practical fusion energy is still uncertain, the progress made by researchers and companies like MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems is promising. As Dennis Whyte, former director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, said, “Now fusion has a chance”.

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