IPR gives fusion breakthrough to India

Times of India Paul John | TNN | May 24, 2016

Ahmedabad: After six years of committed effort, India’s steady state experimental superconducting Tokamak (SST-1) fusion reactor has made its first major breakthrough. On Saturday, at the Institute of Plasma Research (IPR) in Bhat a team of scientists were able to confine plasma – a source of energy – for about 500 milliseconds. India became the sixth country in the world to achieve this capability.

The feat, which is the phase 1 of the SST-1 was achieved after the dedicated team of scientists passed almost 1.17 lakh amperes of current through the plasma column: the amount of current required to confine plasma in a steady state. The temperature of the plasma, described as the fourth state of matter, was nearly 2.5 million degrees celsius. In future thermonuclear reactors, this amount of heat can be harnessed for running large turbines and generating electricity. IPR scientists say that they are not far from the next goal which will involve confining plasma for 1 to 2 seconds, equalling international standards.

This initiative, according to experts, will put Indian fusion programme on firm footing. The SST-1 project had gathered steam under the leadership of IPR director D Bora. A dedicated team of scientists have worked hard to ensure precision engineering for SST-1’s complex integration, developing large-sized super-conducting magnets, kilowatt class cryogenic systems, ultra high vacuum systems, high heat flux operations and large data acquisitions.

“The SST-1 has reached its design value of current for a field of 1.5 TESLA,” said P K Kaw the founder and former director of IPR. “This is a significant milestone especially after the hard work put in by the IPR team. Now our efforts will be to test SST-1 at higher fields and higher currents.” He went on to say: “Like China, we too should have long-standing and ITER independent superconducting Tokamak programme.”

Dean of IPR, Professor Amita Das, said: “SST-1 has helped us master critical technologies. For instance, the ultrahigh vacuum technology we developed for SST-1 was responsible for bringing LIGO project to India.” The SST-1 is a project in which one sees the convergence of all branches of engineering and physics, Das said.