Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory have found a way to build smaller, more powerful magnets, aiding the design and construction of machines that could help the world harness the power of the sun to produce heat and electricity without producing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
The scientists are building high-temperature superconducting magnets that are made of material that conducts electricity with little or no resistance at temperatures warmer than before. Such powerful magnets would more easily fit within the tight space inside spherical tokamaks, which are shaped more like a cored apple than the doughnut-like shape of conventional tokamaks, and are being explored as a possible design for future fusion power plants.
High-temperature superconducting magnets have several advantages over copper magnets. They can be turned on for longer periods than copper magnets can because they don’t heat up as quickly, making them better suited for use in future fusion power plants that will have to run for months at a time.
Scientists are seeking to replicate fusion on Earth for a virtually inexhaustible supply of safe and clean power to generate electricity. Fusion, the process of bonding two atomic nuclei together, is the process that powers the sun and stars.