Tri Alpha Energy has already developed a machine that can hold hot plasma steady at 18 million°F (10 million°C) for 11.5 milliseconds. The firm will use the funds to extend this time further and at even higher temperatures, and believes that it could have the world’s first commercial fusion reactor by 2027.
In a bid to end the world’s reliance on oil, a fusion power firm has raised $500 million to develop commercial fusion power.
The particular type of fusion power Tri Alpha is working on is based on heating hydrogen atoms to temperatures of 5.4 billion°F (3 billion°C) – which is hotter than the surface of the sun.
A fuel with no greenhouse emissions or radioactive waste that is almost unlimited, sounds incredible, but scientists are taking steps to make fusion power useful and affordable.
Fusion, the process that powers the sun and other stars, entails forging the nuclei of atoms to release energy, as opposed to splitting them, which is fission – the principle behind the atomic bomb and nuclear power.
Engineers from the University of Washington have published their design and analysis findings and will present them at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Fusion Energy Conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, this year.
‘Right now, this design has the greatest potential of producing economical fusion power of any current concept,’ said Thomas Jarboe, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the university.
HOW DOES FUSION POWER WORK?
- Fusion involves placing hydrogen atoms under high heat and pressure until they fuse into helium atoms.
- When deuterium and tritium nuclei – which can be found in hydrogen – fuse, they form a helium nucleus, a neutron and a lot of energy.
- This is down by heating the fuel to temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun.
- Strong magnetic fields are used to keep the plasma away from the walls so that it doesn’t cool down and lost it energy potential.
- These are produced by superconducting coils surrounding the vessel, and by an electrical current driven through the plasma.
- For energy production. plasma has to be confined for a sufficiently long period for fusion to occur.