World-first ‘super’ magnet sparks nuclear fusion breakthrough

Tokamak Energy says magnet is nearly a million times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field

Anthony Cuthbertson
Tuesday 07 February 2023 09:38 GMT

Related: What is nuclear fusion?

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A UK firm has announced a world-first set of “super” magnets that can be used for testing nuclear fusion power plants.

Tokamak Energy said the Demo4 magnet has a magnetic field strength that is nearly a million times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field, making it capable of confining and controlling the extremely hot plasma created during the fusion process.

Nuclear fusion has been hailed as the “holy grail” of clean energy, with scientists working on the technology since the 1950s.

The process involves mimicking the natural reactions that occur within the Sun, providing near-limitless energy without requiring fossil fuels and without producing hazardous waste.

Tokamak Energy is aiming to be the first private company to produce commercial fusion energy, with the goal of demonstrating grid-ready fusion in the early 2030s.

“This is a huge, visible moment that we’re really excited about,” said Dr Rod Bateman from Tokamak Energy.

“Our magnets enable the construction and operations of spherical tokamaks, and so are a game changer for getting clean, limitless fusion energy on the grid faster.”

Commercialisation of the power source still remains a long way off, though several major breakthroughs in recent years have given hope that it will be attainable within the next decade.

Last year, scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California became the first to achieve a net energy gain using nuclear fusion power.

LLNL described the feat as “one of the most significant scientific challenges ever undertaken by humanity” that would supercharge efforts to make fusion energy a reality.

Tokamak Energy CEO Chris Kelsall said the company’s new magnet technology would help push forward advancements by providing a key component of the fusion process.

“The learnings from Demo4 will be a key catalyst for delivering the global deployment of compact, low-cost spherical tokamak power plants,” Mr Kelsall said.

“We are proud to be delivering this world-first, complete system of HTS magnetic coils, which will now be assembled into a full tokamak configuration for testing.”

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