A record-breaking 59 megajoules of sustained fusion energy demonstrated fusion energy’s potential
Scientists at the Joint European Torus (JET) in Oxford, UK, announced that they had fused atoms to yield the highest-ever sustained fusion energy. Over the course of a five-second pulse, 59 megajoules of energy were released, more than double the previous record of 21.7 megajoules established at JET in 1997.
Nuclear fusion energy is one of humanity’s long-standing pursuits because it promises to be low carbon, safer than current nuclear energy production methods, and highly efficient. A kilogram of fusion fuel can generate about 10 million times as much energy as a kilogram of coal, oil, or gas.
Process of Fusion reaction
Deuterium and tritium (D-T), hydrogen isotopes, are heated to temperatures ten times higher than the sun’s core to create plasma (an ionized state of matter similar to a gas). Superconducting electromagnets hold the heated plasma in place. As heated plasma spins around, the hydrogen isotopes fuse into helium, releasing immense energy as heat, which can be subsequently turned into electricity.
The energy is generated in a doughnut-shaped machine known as a tokamak. JET is the world’s biggest tokamak and the only magnetic device still in operation that has burned D-T. JET is owned by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), but its scientific operations are run by a European collaboration called EUROfusion.
The scientific data from these crucial experiments provide essential validation of the approach pursued at the next major fusion project, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).
ITER is the world’s largest fusion experiment and one of the most ambitious energy projects in the world today. Situated in the south of France, seven members: China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States support this mega-project. It aims to show that fusion energy is scientifically and technologically feasible.
Source: EUROfusion, Image: UKAEA