It’s a sure bet that the best known “arc reactor” in the world is the glowing energy source in the chest of Tony Stark, the inventor with a superhero complex at the heart of the “Iron Man” film franchise.
But within a decade, if a new level of funding flows, there may be a new contender — and one that isn’t fictional.
A team of researchers, building on work that began as a class project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has published a design for an “ARC” demonstration-scale fusion energy power plant that could actually live up to the ambitious adjectives behind the acronym: “affordable, robust, compact.”
Below I’ve rounded up some useful coverage and descriptions of the research. I can’t do more at the moment because I’m tied up this week visiting the Institute for Applied Systems Analysis near (roasting) Vienna, one of the world’s top hubs assessing economic, population and climate trends, as well as energy and resource demands.
But first, I want to point out an important detail that you’ll hear more about as soon as I have time to dig in.
The obligatory acknowledgements note at the end of the paper mentions funding from the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy and thanks several people. But it also includes a line that will be particularly worth remembering if this design ends up breaking the “just 30 years away” spell that’s surrounded fusion research for more than half a century:
This work originated from a MIT Nuclear Science and Engineering graduate course.
The course is led by Dennis G. Whyte, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the new director of the school’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center. It’s no accident that Whyte’s mantra is “smaller and sooner.”
It’s exciting to see academia integrating directly with innovation on this scale. (There are other commercial “smaller and sooner” efforts under way, including a much-touted and much-discussed Lockheed Martin reactor design.)
The M.I.T. course recalls Inventor’s Studio, a course I learned about on a 2012 visit to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in which 20 seniors each year were challenged by engineering lecturer Burt Swersey to produce marketable innovations that are profitable, patentable and can improve the world.
With this in mind, I hope that Bill Gates’s planned investment push on game-changing renewable and nuclear energy innovation goes beyond a focus on specific technologies and includes support for academic models that can generate big breakthroughs.
But let’s get back to the ARC fusion power plant.
In his post at IFL Science, Jonathan O’Callaghan sets the right tone with this headline: “You Can Get Cautiously Excited About This Fusion Power ‘Breakthrough.’”
The ARC reactor is simply a proposal for now, but the team said it could potentially be built in just five years. For comparison, construction on a huge $40 billion (£26 billion) experimental fusion reactor in France called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) began in 2013, and is expected to be completed in 2019. It was designed before these new superconductors were available.
Evan Ackerman at the engineering publication IEEE Spectrum sees few impediments to building one within a decade instead of the mythical 30 years:
We should point out, as the researchers do, that “a full engineering design is beyond the scope of the ARC study.” However, there’s no theoretical or technological showstopper preventing an engineering design for an ARC reactor to be developed. If it is, we could see a completed one up and running in as little as a decade. [Read the rest.]
The Latest on: ARC Fusion Power Plant
via Google News
The Latest on: ARC Fusion Power Plant
- Huawei Fusion Solar Powers Select Areas of Beijing Daxing International Airporton October 9, 2019 at 1:05 am
After grid connection, 6.1 GWh of green energy will be fed into the power grid annually, which equals to 1,900 tons of standard coal saving while offsetting 966 tons of CO 2 and 14.5 tons of SO 2 ...
- A Boston startup developing a nuclear fusion reactor just got a roughly $50 million booston June 27, 2019 at 9:30 am
The class, which was taught by Dennis Whyte, who is the head of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, came up with a new reactor technology they called the ARC (standing for ... a fusion power plant ...
- Commonwealth Fusion Systems Raises $115M in Series A Fundingon June 27, 2019 at 8:47 am
will use these magnets to build its net energy gain fusion system, called SPARC, by 2025. SPARC will allow the first commercially viable fusion power plant called ARC, which will produce fusion power ...
- ARC: The new nuclear fusion reactor causing a stiron December 9, 2017 at 10:05 pm
Seen by many as nothing but a pipe dream, nuclear fusion energy has been tarred with the same brush as dismissed sciences such as alchemy, but a new nuclear fusion ... ARC is also seen as having the ...
- Fusion power could be here in less than a decade: MIT reveals small 'Iron Man' reactor it claims could create limitless amounts of energyon August 18, 2015 at 1:42 pm
Named ARC, the planned reactor will be a tokamak ... for basic research on fusion and also as a potential prototype plant that could produce significant power. The achievable fusion power increases ...
- ARC reactor design uses superconducting magnets to draw fusion power closeron August 16, 2015 at 5:00 pm
Intended for basic fusion power research, the ARC reactor is based on the same physics as ITER, though the team also describes it as a potential prototype plant that could generate significant amounts ...
- MIT’s groundbreaking mini fusion reactor could power the world within 10 yearson August 13, 2015 at 8:01 am
Now, powerful new magnet technology has led the way to a groundbreaking design for a small, modular fusion ARC reactor that generates the same ... Sorbom explains the world’s largest planned fusion ...
- Small, modular nuke plant proposed—this time for fusionon August 13, 2015 at 6:34 am
Oh yeah—they also calculate it should work as a power plant as well. The team is calling the new tokamak design ARC, for affordable, robust, compact. In fusion research, most of those terms are ...
- Heck of a Class Project: An ‘Affordable, Robust, Compact’ Fusion Reactor Design, Buildable in a Decadeon August 11, 2015 at 3:36 pm
A team of researchers, building on work that began as a class project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has published a design for an “ARC” demonstration-scale fusion energy power plant ...
- Nuclear fusion reactor in just five years?on August 10, 2015 at 5:00 pm
By comparison, August 4th marked the fifth anniversary of breaking ground on the world's biggest nuclear fusion reactor project ... more about it in ARC: A compact, high-field, fusion nuclear science ...
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