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Smaller, stronger magnets could improve devices that harness the power of sun and star fusion

Smaller, stronger magnets could improve devices that harness the power of sun and star fusion

PPPL chief engineer Yuhu Zhai with photo-high-temperature superconducting magnets, which can improve the performance of tokamak spherical fusion devices. Credit: Kiran Sudarsanan/PPPL Communications Bureau

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have found a way to build powerful magnets smaller than before, helping to design and build machines that could help the scientist harness the power of the Sun to generate electricity. without producing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

Scientists have found a way to build high temperatures superconducting magnet Made of electrically conductive material with little or no resistance in warmer temperatures than before. These powerful magnets will more easily fit into the narrow space inside spherical tokamakwhich is more chiseled-apple-shaped than the donut-like shape of a conventional tokamak, and is being explored as a potential design for future fusion power plants.

Because the magnet can be placed apart from other machines in the central cavity of the spherical tokamak for an individual hot plasma This fuel fusion reactionsresearchers can fix it without having to disassemble anything else.

Yuhu Chai, Principal Engineer at PPPL and lead author of a paper announcing the results at IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity. “The only way to do that is by using super conductive wiresAnd that’s what we did.”

Fusion, the force that drives the sun and stars, combines the elements of light in the form of plasma – the hot, charged state of matter made up of free electrons and an atomic nucleus – that generates massive amounts of energy. Scientists are seeking to replicate fusion on Earth to provide a nearly inexhaustible supply of safe, clean energy for electricity generation.

High-temperature superconducting magnets have many advantages over copper magnets. They can operate for longer periods of time than copper magnets because they do not heat up as quickly, making them better suited for use in future fusion power plants that must operate for months at a time. Superconducting wires are also strong, being able to transmit the same amount of electric current as copper wires several times more wide while producing a stronger magnetic field.

The magnets could also help scientists continue to shrink the size of the tokamak, improve performance and reduce the cost of construction. “The tokamak is sensitive to conditions in its central regions, including the size of the central magnet, or solenoid, shield, and vessel discharge,” said John Maynard, deputy director of research at PPPL. “A lot depends on the center. So if you can trim things in the middle, you can shrink the whole machine and reduce cost while, in theory, improving performance.”

These new magnets benefit from technology refined by Zhai and researchers at Advanced Conductor Technologies, the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, in Tallahassee, Florida. This technology means that the wires do not need traditional epoxy and fiberglass insulation to ensure the flow of electricity. While simplifying construction, this technology also cuts costs. “The coil winding costs are much lower because we don’t have to go through the expensive, error-prone epoxy impregnation process,” Chai said. “Instead, you wind the conductor directly into the shape of the coil.”

Furthermore, “high-temperature superconducting magnets can aid in the design of a spherical tokamak because the higher current density and smaller coils provide more space for the support structure that helps the device withstand high magnetic fields, enhancing operating conditions,” Thomas Brown said, PPPL engineer who contributed to the research. “Also, the smaller, more powerful magnets give the machine designer more options for designing a spherical tokamak with geometry that can enhance the overall tokamak’s performance. We’re not there yet, but we are closer, and perhaps close enough.”


The new innovative magnet can facilitate the development of fusion and medical devices


more information:
Y. Zhai et al, HTS Cable Connector for Tokamak Fusion Integrated Solenoids, IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity (2022). DOI: 10.1109/TASC.2022.3167343

the quote: Smaller, stronger magnets could improve devices harnessing the power of sun-star fusion (2022, July 25) Retrieved on July 25, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-smaller-stronger-magnets-devices-harness .html

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