Superconductor technology for smaller, sooner fusion

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Superconductor technology for smaller, sooner fusion
The assembly designed for the third SULTAN cable test features two 3-meter VIPER HTS cables in parallel and connected with a copper joint at the bottom; cryogenic helium and electrical current are injected at the top.once installed in SULTAN. The outer superstructure provides structural support to react the enormous lateral electromechanical body loads generated within the cables during testing. A unique aspect of this design, provided by the materials and the trapezoidal extension at the mid-plane, is the ability to axial strain the cables during testing to better replicate the conditions that would be experienced by VIPER cableswithin a high-field magnet. Credit: Jose Estrada/PSFC

Scientists have long sought to harness fusion as an inexhaustible and carbon-free energy source. Within the past few years, groundbreaking high-temperature superconductor technology (HTS) sparked a new vision for achieving practical fusion energy. This approach, known as the high-field pathway to fusion, aims to generate fusion in compact devices on a shorter timescale and lower cost than alternative approaches.


A key technical challenge to realizing this vision, though, has been getting HTS superconductors to work in an integrated way in the development of new, high-performance superconducting magnets, which will enable higher magnetic fields than previous generations of magnets, and are central to confining and controlling plasma reactions.

Now a team led by MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) and MIT spinout company Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), has developed and extensively tested an HTS cable technology that can be scaled and engineered into the high-performance magnets. The team’s research was published on Oct. 7 in Superconductor Science and Technology. Researchers included MIT assistant professor and principal investigator Zachary Hartwig; PSFC Deputy Head of Engineering Rui F. Vieira and other key PSFC technical and engineering staff; CFS Chief Science Officer Brandon Sorbom Ph.D. ’17 and other