Two and a half years ago, MIT entered into a research agreement with startup company Commonwealth Fusion Systems to develop a next-generation fusion research experiment, called SPARC, as a precursor to a practical, emissions-free power plant. The day after the article published two years ago, New Energy Times asked Whyte for details about the power values. White is the head of the Nuclear Science and Engineering Department and associate director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center. "The MIT group is pursuing a very compelling approach to fusion energy." So far, however, the energy put into achieving any form of fusion has been more than the energy that we’ve been able to get out of the system. Martin Greenwald, deputy director of the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center. At least the first investor in MIT’s Commonwealth appears to have taken the bait. New Energy Times asked Greenwald and Sorbom for that value. Meeting the challenge of developing practical fusion energy will require the active participation of universities, private industry and the government. Had White and Whyte said “fusion device to make more fusion power than it consumes,” their claim would have been misleading but technically legitimate. Dear President Reif, If Dennis G. Whyte, the director of the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center, and Martin Greenwald, the deputy director of the center, had wanted to cheat and use deceptive language to exaggerate their claims of what the next MIT fusion reactor is likely to achieve, they succeeded. That would be the first time a fusion plasma of any kind has produced more energy than it consumed. False Fusion Claims by Ian Chapman, Head of U.K. Fusion, #57. MIT continues progress toward practical fusion energy, MIT and newly formed company launch novel approach to fusion power, More about MIT News at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, View all news coverage of MIT in the media, Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives license, Paper: “Status of the SPARC physics basis.”, Full story via United Press International (UPI), Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Professor and astrophysicist Sara Seager appointed officer to the Order of Canada, States of growth: When and where entrepreneurship has thrived, 3 Questions: Rona Oran and Benjamin Weiss on the ancient moon’s missing magnetism, Validating the physics behind the new MIT designed fusion experiment. Overall, “we’re still aiming for a start of construction in roughly June of ’21,” Greenwald says. UPI reporter Brooks Hays writes that a series of papers by MIT researchers finds that the designs for the SPARC compact nuclear fusion experiment should be viable. The SPARC design, though about twice the size as MIT’s now-retired Alcator C-Mod experiment and similar to several other research fusion machines currently in operation, would be far more powerful, achieving fusion performance comparable to that expected in the much larger ITER tokamak being built in France by an international consortium. This website is managed by the MIT News Office, part of the MIT Office of Communications. The ARC has a conventional advanced tokamak layout, as opposed to other small … Although the total input electrical power required to operate the SPARC reactor is not evident in any of its public disclosures, the world’s leading engineering university certainly must have a rough idea how much electrical power SPARC is expected to draw before engineers turn the machine on. They provided the projected input value for the injected heat into SPARC but not the input electrical value to create that heat or the input electrical value to operate the reactor. This included work at MIT that began in the 1970s, led by professors Bruno Coppi and Ron Parker, who developed the kind of high-magnetic-field fusion experiments that have been operated at MIT ever since, setting numerous fusion records. Such fusion power plants might significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power-generation sector, one of the major sources of these emissions globally. Nov. 6, 2018/Colm Gorey/Silicon Republic: The researchers plan to use this technology to build magnets at the scale required for fusion, followed by construction of what would be the world’s first fusion experiment to yield a net energy gain. You start with deuterium and tritium, both isotopes of hydrogen. It is designed to achieve a Q factor — a key parameter denoting the efficiency of a fusion plasma — of at least 2, essentially meaning that twice as much fusion energy is produced as the amount of energy pumped in to generate the reaction. The details of the burning plasma “are really novel and important,” he says. Within the next decade, the team hopes to develop a prototype reactor [SPARC] that can generate more energy than it consumes. However, if the reactor achieves its highest expected output — 100 MW of fusion power — and if the researchers do not have secret plans that will enable them to convert electrical power into injected thermal power at an unprecedented efficiency, and if the remainder of the reactor miraculously requires the input of only one MW of electricity, SPARC will produce, in pulses of about 10 seconds, a grand total of 9 MW of fusion heat. Removing an article from a Web site is easy. Making attractive fusion claims that are not falsehoods is difficult to do. Nobel Laureate Foresaw ITER is Bait-and-Switch, 2004 Article Reveals, 44. The ARC design aims to achieve an engineering breakeven of three while being about half the diameter of the ITER reactor and cheaper to build. MIT researchers have published a series of new papers demonstrating that the design for the SPARC compact nuclear fusion reactor “is both technically feasible and could produce 10 times the energy it consumes,” reports Dino Grandoni for The Washington Post. Fusion Researchers: New Reactor Will Create Power Comparable to Hoover Dam, 50. Omitting the ITER Input Power – Cardozo’s Role, #53. You may not alter the images provided, other than to crop them to size. The large multi-institutional team of researchers represented in the new set of papers aimed to bring the best consensus tools to the SPARC machine design to increase confidence it will achieve its mission. March 11, 2019/Molly Lempriere/Power-Technology.com: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced that its SPARC reactor could begin producing energy from nuclear fusion by 2025, but it is a small reactor and likely to produce between just 50 MW and 100 MW of power. Delbert writes that the researchers may be able to get the SPARC reactor online within 10 years by “improving materials and shrinking costs.”. The diameter of the tokamak has been increased by about 12 percent, but little else has changed, Greenwald says. Returning $115 million is another matter. The class called it the ARC (affordable, robust, compact) fusion reactor. … The UK’s JET reactor achieved an energy gain of 0.67, meaning for every unit of energy put into the system, it generated 0.67 units of energy. The new experimental device, called the SPARC (Soonest/Smallest Private-Funded Affordable Robust Compact) reactor, is being developed by scientists at MIT and a … On the subject of timescales and commercial viability, SPARC is an evolution of a tokamak design that has been studied and refined for decades, including work at MIT which began in the 1970s. Two years ago, New Energy Times spoke with Laban Coblentz, the spokesman for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). The seven papers explore the specific areas of the physics that had to be further refined, and that still require ongoing research to pin down the final elements of the machine design and the operating procedures and tests that will be involved as work progresses toward the power plant. March 3, 2018/Hannah Devlin/The Guardian: The experimental reactor is designed to produce about 100 MW of heat. Pioneer in exoplanet research helped transform the burgeoning field into one of the fastest-growing and most exciting in space science. If the conversion efficiency is the same with SPARC, it will require 90 MW of electricity to heat the fuel. Greenwald says there is still much to be learned about the physics of burning plasmas, and once this machine is up and running, key information can be gained that will help pave the way to commercial, power-producing fusion devices, whose fuel — the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium — can be made available in virtually limitless supplies. The professors said that SPARC “will carry out the world’s first demonstration of net energy from a fusion experiment — making SPARC the first fusion device to make more power than it consumes.”. In the June 27, 2019, press release, Commonwealth said that SPARC is designed to generate 100 MW of fusion power. While it will not turn that heat into electricity, it will produce, in pulses of about 10 seconds, as much power as is used by a small city. This special issue’s seven peer-reviewed articles provide a comprehensive summary of the physics basis for SPARC: a compact, high-field, DT burning tokamak, currently under design by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Commonwealth Fusion Systems.The SPARC project builds on a remarkable period of progress in the understanding of magnetically confined … The federal program ran until 2016 when the DOE and Congress, after four years of indecision, pulled the plug. Now, after many months of intensive research and engineering work, the researchers charged with defining and refining the physics behind the ambitious tokamak design have published a series of papers summarizing the progress they have made and outlining the key research questions SPARC will enable. … SPARC’s goal? Images for download on the MIT News office website are made available to non-commercial entities, press and the general public under a In the June 27, 2019, press release, Commonwealth said that SPARC is designed to generate 100 MW of fusion power. Greenwald examines how recent advances in high-temperature superconductors and recent investments in fusion technology from the private sector could “alter the landscape and offer the possibility of a dramatic speed-up in the development of this new energy source.”, Popular Mechanics reporter Caroline Delbert writes that new research by MIT scientists provides evidence that the compact nuclear fusion design they are developing should be feasible. False Fusion Claims by ITER European Domestic Agency, Resolution of the Rutherford Transmutation Myth, 38. The second crucial value that MIT omitted is the total input electrical power required to operate the SPARC reactor. European Commission Leads the Way with Accurate ITER Promises, 47. Studying the behavior of this burning plasma — something never before seen on Earth in a controlled fashion — is seen as crucial information for developing the next step, a working prototype of a practical, power-generating power plant. The calculations at this point show that SPARC could actually achieve a Q ratio of 10 or more, according to the new papers. Commonwealth said that, in six years from now, in collaboration with MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, SPARC will “demonstrate net energy gain from fusion for the first time in history.” Physicist Protests ITER Organization Claims, #62. ITER Claims: Corrections and Retractions, 48. Together, the papers outline the theoretical and empirical physics basis for the new fusion system, which the consortium expects to start building next year. Whyte is the director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center. New Energy Times asked Martin Greenwald, a founding member of the SPARC team and the deputy director of the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center, for that value. Department faculty, researchers, and students have provided leadership in the interdepartmental efforts of MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center, which recently launched the SPARC project and houses the tokamak Alcator C-Mod, one of the three major national magnetic confinement fusion research centers in the US. The first value is the electrical power required to create the 30 MW of thermal heating power. MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Validating the physics behind the new MIT-designed fusion experiment. The authors used cutting-edge simulations, run on powerful supercomputers, that have been developed to aid the design of ITER. SPARC, Zuber said, is designed to “demonstrate, for the first time, control of a fusion plasma that produces more energy than it consumes.”, Maria Zuber, MIT Vice President for Research. MIT and Commonwealth representatives have made public fusion claims that they cannot support. Fusion leaders at MIT and Commonwealth have had a year to correct any unintended misinterpretations of their public communications and set the record straight. SPARC would be the size of existing mid-sized fusion devices, but with a much stronger magnetic field. Based on established physics, the device is predicted to produce 50-100 MW … 2016 Survey of Professors on ITER Power Claims, 43. Commonwealth Fusion Systems, founded in 2018 by MIT scientists, will soon begin its search for construction and engineering firms to help build SPARC… SPARC is not designed to produce electricity; the output will be measured only in the thermal power produced by the fusion plasma. SPARC is an evolution of a tokamak design that has been studied and refined for decades. “There’s always the question of a little more of this, a little less of that, and there’s lots of things that weigh into that, engineering issues, mechanical stresses, thermal stresses, and there’s also the physics — how do you affect the performance of the machine?”, The publication of this special issue of the journal, he says, “represents a summary, a snapshot of the physics basis as it stands today.” Though members of the team have discussed many aspects of it at physics meetings, “this is our first opportunity to tell our story, get it reviewed, get the stamp of approval, and put it out into the community.”. The ITER reactor is designed to use 50 MW of injected thermal power to heat the fuel. What we’re trying to do is put the project on the firmest possible physics basis, so that we’re confident about how it’s going to perform, and then to provide guidance and answer questions for the engineering design as it proceeds.”. Whyte replied and said the details were confidential. Sept. 30, 2020. In a June 27, 2019, press release, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, a private spin-off from MIT, said it had raised another $50 million from investors, bringing its total fusion reactor funding to $115 million. The year’s popular research stories include astronomical firsts, scientific breakthroughs, and engineering milestones addressing Covid-19 and other global problems. The MIT-led team is developing a “SPARC” compact fusion reactor. The Sparc reactor proposed by MIT isn’t dramatically different than other tokamak fusion devices from previous experiments. Commonwealth said that, in six years from now, in collaboration with MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, SPARC will “demonstrate net energy gain from fusion for the first time in history.”. “The big mountain we have to get over is to understand this self-heated state of a plasma.”, "The analysis presented in these papers will provide the world-wide fusion community with an opportunity to better understand the physics basis of the SPARC device and gauge for itself the remaining challenges that need to be resolved," says George Tynan, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California at San Diego, who was not connected to this work. It's … Limitations imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic slowed progress a bit, but not much, he says, and the researchers are back in the labs under new operating guidelines. Rendering of SPARC, a compact, high-field, DT burning tokamak, currently under design by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Commonwealth Fusion Systems. The ARC fusion reactor is a theoretical design for a compact fusion reactor developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Plasma Science and Fusion Center. An MIT- and startup-designed fusion reactor could be testing in four years and online within 10. While this is much smaller than the long-predicted perfect fusion reactors, could it be an appealing source of energy? Zachary Hartwig joined the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering in January 2017 as an assistant professor and holds a co-appointment at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC). Simulations rule out plasmas caused by meteoroid impacts as the source of lunar magnetism, supporting the proposal that the ancient moon generated a core dynamo. While Greenwald cautions that the team wants to be careful not to overpromise, and much work remains, the results so far indicate that the project will at least achieve its goals, and specifically will meet its key objective of producing a burning plasma, wherein the self-heating dominates the energy balance. The Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) seeks to provide research and educational opportunities for expanding the scientific understanding of the physics of plasmas, and to use that knowledge to develop both fusion power and non-fusion applications. It was the Italian energy company called Eni. Instead, it developed plans for a new reactor that would be funded by private investment. European Commission President Directs Correction of False ITER Claims, 42. The SPARC experiment would be … On the same day as last year’s press release, the Boston Globe published an op-ed article by MIT Vice President for Research Maria Zuber. Now she would be working on MIT’s latest fusion experiment, SPARC. Bio. For every watt of electrical power put into the JET system, it released 0.02 Watts of power from fusion. CFS’s Sparc machine could pave the way for the world’s first commercial fusion reactor. … Net energy gain – where the reactor produces more energy than is put into it – is the end goal of nuclear fusion, with its advocates promising that such a breakthrough would allow for us to produce near-limitless, clean energy at very little cost. Neither of them responded to e-mails or phone messages. Did MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems Mislead Fusion Investors? CFS has assembled a world-class team working to design and build fusion machines that will provide limitless, clean, fusion energy to combat climate change. European ITER Domestic Agency Removes False Fusion Claims, 46. This smaller-faster-cheaper approach is embodied in the SPARC reactor concept, which was developed at the PSFC and forms the foundation of CFS’s aggressive effort to demonstrate energy-gain fusion by the mid-2020s and produce practical reactor designs by the early 2030s. Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives license. This series of papers provides a high level of confidence in the plasma physics and the performance predictions for SPARC, he says. If SPARC requires 90 MW of electricity to heat the plasma, and it requires only an additional 10 MW of power to operate the remainder of the machine, the device, at best, will have a net output of zero MW of thermal power from fusion. SPARC is planned to be the first experimental device ever to achieve a “burning plasma” — that is, a self-sustaining fusion reaction in which different isotopes of the element hydrogen fuse together to form helium, without the need for any further input of energy. SPARC Underground –IAP 2017 Fusion energy and MIT’s pathway to accelerated demonstration 3 Unfortunately, so does CO 2 production CO2 per person [metric tons] 1 CO2 per person 0.01 100 CO2 per person [metric tons] 0.01 100 0.01 1 100 MIT is partnering with private industry to build the world’s highest-performance, magnets for fusion energy. MIT has not disclosed to the public, and perhaps not to its investors, two other crucial values. "They realized the emergence of high-temperature superconducting technology enables a high magnetic field approach to producing net energy gain from a magnetic confinement system. Once this work is successful, these magnets will be used to build SPARC, the first net-energy controlled fusion experiment. The new set of papers represents the first time that the underlying physics basis for the SPARC machine has been outlined in detail in peer-reviewed publications. Coblentz told New Energy Times that 150 MW of electricity would be required to power the radio frequency and neutral beam injection systems that produce the 50 MW of heating power injected into ITER. The estimated cost of an ARC reactor that matched the ITER-predicted performance was only a few billion dollars—as little as a tenth of ITER’s price tag. “Engineers expect their SPARC reactor, or tokamak, to be much more powerful than previous experimental reactors,” writes Hays. Bob Mumgaard, Commonwealth Fusion’s chief executive and one of the company’s founders, said a goal of the Sparc project was to develop fusion in … A fusion startup today only needs to show that it has a reactor able to achieve net-positive energy gain—it doesn’t even need to build a full-fledged power plant—to prove itself. Many of the fine details are still being worked out on the machine design, covering the best ways of getting energy and fuel into the device, getting the power out, dealing with any sudden thermal or power transients, and how and where to measure key parameters in order to monitor the machine’s operation. Superconductor technology for smaller, sooner fusion MIT-CFS team’s demonstration of new superconducting cable is a key step on the high-field path to compact fusion. says Chris Hegna, a professor of engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who was not connected to this work. Avec ITER, Plus ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Chose, 39. SPARC will pave the way for the first commercially viable fusion power plant, called ARC. The core of the SPARC project was formed over eight years ago during a design course led by Dennis to challenge assumptions in fusion. 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