Via Princeton Plasma Physics Lab
There are different ways to generate power out of renewable sources, but rarely does fusion power – the result of fusing the nuclei of two or more lighter atoms into one heavier nucleus – come into mind. Although it holds a promise in providing a low-cost, sustainable energy resource, scientists say that we’re still 30 years away from making such power to be felt by the people. Recent happenings at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory might have shortened that period.
A team from the mentioned laboratory has developed a “jar” that will handle the by-product of nuclear fusion known as plasma, which is a super hot cloud of electrons and ions made after the atom’s electrons are separated from their nuclei. Plasma is rich in energy, existing at extremely high temperatures up to 150 million degrees Celsius – about ten times the temperature at the Sun’s core.
Source: Plasma INPE
There are no materials on Earth that could make a good jar in such high temperatures; until in 1950s, “tokamaks” are developed using magnetic fields to contain the plasma generated through nuclear fusion. Previous designs of tokamaks take the shape of the donut, but recent design is more of a sphere like a cored apple, able to generate magnetic fields to produce high-pressure plasma in a more energy- and cost-effective manner.
Mega Ampere Spherical Tokamak (MAST) and the National Spherical Torus Experiment Upgrade at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL) are the two most advanced spherical tokamaks, with another fusion nuclear science facility underway to answer the current challenges of nuclear fusion power generation.