Science: A New Record has been Established for Fusion Energy

The Story:

An experiment near Oxford in the United Kingdom on Feb. 9 established a new record for the greatest sustained energy pulse created by a fusion reactor. The UK Atomic Energy Authority hosts the Joint European Torus, which accomplished this result, but the program is run by a European collaboration called EUROfusion.


A ‘torus” is a donut shaped object. The Joint European Torus has its name because physicists involved in fusion work generally use torus’ to turn intense magnetic fields upon and so contain high energy hydrogen plasma. This creates the conditions in which the atomic nuclei are brought close enough together that they merge. When this happens, there is less mass in the resulting nuclei than there was in the initial nuclei, releasing the amount of energy indicated in the well-known formula: E = mc2.

Strange New Worlds:

The goal of such research is the development of a critical new source of electrical power with very low levels of carbon emission. In the experiment Feb. 9, a five second burst of fusion generated 59 megajoules of heat. This is equivalent to about 14 kilograms of TNT, and it beat the previous record of 21.7 megajoules. Plans are in the works for a project bigger than JET, an International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).


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