Central Solenoid: A New Powerful Magnet Enough to Lift an Aircraft Carrier
It also has the potential to unlock the door to infinite energy.
France's scientists have finally acquired one of their most recent and remarkable tools in the endeavor to generate nuclear fusion: a massive honkin' magnet.
According to The Associated Press, researchers at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) unveiled the first section of the magnet on Thursday after receiving it from its American maker.
The magnet, when fully built, stands 60 feet tall and 14 feet in diameter, and is powerful enough to lift an aircraft carrier.
A "central solenoid" is the name given to the magnet. It will be utilized as a superconductor to achieve the extreme temperatures and pressures required for nuclear fusion. According to New Scientist, the solenoid can generate a magnetic field 280,000 times stronger than Earth's magnetic field.
“Each completion of a major first-of-a-kind component — such as the central solenoid’s first module — increases our confidence that we can complete the complex engineering of the full machine,” said Laban Coblentz, spokesperson for ITER.
A Key Milestone In the Direction of NuclearFusion
Nuclear fusion produces energy by replicating the reaction that occurs in the Sun and stars. Scientists are working on cutting-edge technology that will allow them to safely smash two atoms together to generate a heavier nucleus that unleashes massive quantities of energy. The problem is that, with today's technology, fusion reactors expend more energy regulating and stabilizing the burning plasma required for the reaction than they do producing energy.
That is why scientists are working to create extremely energy-efficient and powerful magnets. The scientists are getting closer to achieving "net energy" from nuclear fusion by using less power in these magnets. With this in mind, General Atomics, based in San Diego, transported a portion of their "central solenoid" superconducting magnet to France this summer. "Each completion of a key first-of-a-kind component, such as the central solenoid's first module," said ITER spokesman Laban Coblentz, "increases our confidence that we can complete the complicated engineering of the full machine." Coils measuring 250,000 pounds make up the magnet (approx. 113,400 kg).
Demonstrating Business Viability
ITER is presently estimated to be 75 percent complete, and the project's scientists have set a target for the reactor to be operational by 2026. By 2035, scientists want to produce ten times the amount of energy needed to power the fusion reactor.
Scientists at ITER are competing against organizations all across the world, including the MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) teams, who have said that their first operational fusion power plant, dubbed ARC, might be operational in the early 2030s. First, they'll have to use their magnet in the SPARC Tokamak Fusion Reactor, which is an experimental Tokamak fusion reactor. ITER, too, will not be used commercially; instead, it will be used as an experiment to demonstrate the viability of commercial nuclear fusion.
The ITER project is an international collaboration funded by the governments of most of Europe, as well as the United States, Russia, China, Japan, India, and South Korea. If it is a success, all of these countries will benefit from the intellectual property generated throughout the experiments. ITER's success, therefore, would greatly enhance the global community's ability to cut carbon emissions — a necessary requirement if we wish to turn the tide on an ongoing global crisis.
Source: Interesting Engineering
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