Tokamak Energy Ltd. | Date: 2015-04-09
An efficient compact nuclear fusion reactor for use as a neutron source or energy source includes a toroidal plasma chamber and a plasma confinement system arranged to generate a magnetic field for confining a plasma in the chamber, where the plasma confinement system is configured so that a major radius of the confined plasma is 1.5 m or less and the toroidal magnetic field is operated 5 T or less and the plasma current is 5 MA or less, yet a-particles generated are confined in the plasma.
News Article | May 15, 2017
For decades scientists have tried to replicate nuclear fusion - the process that powers the Sun. If successful it would provide a source of energy with far less waste than the current generation of fission reactors and would generate electricity without carbon emissions. One company, Tokamak Energy, thinks its mini fusion generators (Tokamaks) may hold the answer by allowing the company to test ideas faster than their competitors.
Tokamak Energy Ltd | Date: 2017-02-15
An efficient compact nuclear fusion reactor for use as a neutron source or energy source is described. The reactor comprises a toroidal plasma chamber and a plasma confinement system arranged to generate a magnetic field for confining a plasma in the chamber. The plasma confinement system is configured so that a major radius of the confined plasma is 1.5m or less. The toroidal magnetic field is operated 5T or less and the plasma current is 5 MA or less. Despite this, -particles generated are confined in the plasma.
News Article | May 5, 2017
This is a series around POWER, a Motherboard 360/VR documentary about nuclear energy. Follow along here. In the suburbs of Vancouver, a team is working on what they think is humanity's best chance at clean, unlimited power, something we desperately need. A startup called General Fusion is building a nuclear fusion reactor and, if they succeed, it could mean the end of the fossil fuel era. Instead, we'd get our power from the same process that occurs in stars—at least, that's the dream. Because of climate change, nuclear power—which produces no greenhouse gases—is looking like more attractive. But the big problem is what to do with the radioactive waste left behind. Nuclear fusion promises to solve the problems of traditional fission power. Its fuel is abundant (seawater!), and it has a harmless helium byproduct. But until recently, the challenges of fusion seemed insurmountable. Now, big name investors like Jeff Bezos are lending a hand to General Fusion, which is attempting a whole new approach. Watch more from Motherboard in 360/VR: Next Door to a Nuclear Plant Unlike the nuclear fission that powers conventional reactors today, in which atoms are split apart, fusion power is generated when you smoosh two smaller atoms into a larger one inside a containment device. The math behind fusion says this reaction has to result in the loss of a bit of mass and, well, due to that little equation E=mc2, that mass turns into a lot of energy. Like, a ton. Here's the rub: so far, all fusion solutions still require more power to run than they create. Overhead costs mean current experimental applications just aren't energy efficient enough to produce net power. So, fusion technology has a perpetual reputation for being decades away. "We can definitely make fusion," George Rubin, VP of business development for General Fusion, told Motherboard over the phone. "We have not been able to demonstrate fusion that produces more energy than we have to put into it. But it's not like we're violating the laws of the universe here." There's reason to be optimistic about current nuclear fusion projects. Massive efforts like the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) have been joined by smaller startups, like Tri Alpha in the US and Tokamak Energy in the UK, in aiming to produce workable solutions. In fact, the latter has achieved 'first plasma,' meaning they've successfully contained a blob of the superhot material in the core of their prototype. "The scientific achievements of large fusion projects have created the knowledge base that can now fuel this development," said Rubin. "You also have a lot of developments in parallel industries," like materials, he continued. "High temperature superconductors, lasers, and pulse power systems were not developed for fusion per se, but they all have a dramatic impact on what you can do." General Fusion's plan is to work around the really complicated problems that need superconductors and propose an alternative reactor design called Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF). Instead of relying on huge lasers, MTF will attempt to create fusion by injecting a stream of deuterium-tritium plasma into a 3m sphere. The walls of the sphere are lined with lead-lithium liquid metal, which is being pumped to create a vortex (like water draining from a tub). The plasma, mixing with the liquid metal vortex, is then compressed once every second by acoustic waves from 200 pistons that will encircle the reactor. This compression heats everything up to 150 million degrees celsius so fusion occurs. General Fusion calls it the spheromak. MTF also solves a problem that experimental fusion reactor designs still contend with. The liquid metal liner can be linked to a heat exchanger, which means it can generate steam to spin a turbine. Other types of reactor still need to figure out how to harvest the heat created. But there's one giant hurdle the Vancouver company has yet to face: heating up the plasma to 150 million degrees. At those temperatures, the ionized gas can get unpredictable. Unstable plasma been a major stumbling point for other approaches, and General Fusion will only discover what happens when they start up their first prototype. (The timeline for this isn't yet clear.) In many ways, the MTF concept anticipates problems that other reactors have faced. For example, the liquid metal liner solves the first wall problem because it stops neutrons from degrading the spheromak's steel enclosure. General fusion thinks the plasma stability problem is accounted for because the actual reaction time is so short. "We only need the plasma to last on the order of hundreds of microseconds," said General Fusion spokesperson Tim Howard. "We anticipate that with the substantial plasma physics expertise we've developed over recent years that this will be a manageable challenge." With an aim to create a reactor by 2030, General Fusion sees a need to attract more expertise to Canada through funding of academic ventures and private business in the emerging market. The federal government is finally coming around to funding future tech through initiatives like the machine learning Vector Institute in Toronto. The early days of fusion offer opportunities to get ahead of the competition, General Fusion's supporters argue. The 2030 timeline is a big deal. While renewable sources of energy are going to play a huge role in the future power grid, they don't offer the same capacity as something like nuclear, gas, or coal. And with rising costs of gas and coal due to upcoming carbon fees, finding a way to make nuclear work will become a more affordable option. Fusion power could be what humanity needs to break itself from its carbon habit, but it needs support today to become the power source of the future. Subscribe to Science Solved It, Motherboard's new show about the greatest mysteries that were solved by science.
News Article | May 4, 2017
Oxfordshire-based Tokamak Energy has fired up its latest fusion reactor for the first time and aims to reach temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius next year. Known as the ST40, the reactor represents the third of five stages in the company’s plan to deliver fusion energy to the grid by 2030. Controlled fusion requires temperatures in excess of 100 million (m)°C, but this has never been achieved by a privately funded company. To reach that goal, Tokamak Energy is focusing on compact, spherical tokamak reactors, as it believes they are quicker to develop and offer the quickest route to commercial fusion power. “Today is an important day for fusion energy development in the UK, and the world,” said Dr David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy. “We are unveiling the first world-class controlled fusion device to have been designed, built and operated by a private venture. The ST40 is a machine that will show fusion temperatures – 100 million degrees – are possible in compact, cost-effective reactors. This will allow fusion power to be achieved in years, not decades.” The next steps in the ST40’s development will see the reactor’s magnetic coils commissioned and installed. These are crucial for containing the super-heated plasma and pushing towards fusion temperatures. By Autumn 2017, the company hopes to have produced a plasma temperature of 15m°C, with 100m°C reached at some point in 2018. Longer term, Tokamak Energy is aiming to deliver its first fusion electricity by 2025, with commercial power available via the grid five years later. “We will still need significant investment, many academic and industrial collaborations, dedicated and creative engineers and scientists, and an excellent supply chain,” said Kingham. “Our approach continues to be to break the journey down into a series of engineering challenges, raising additional investment on reaching each new milestone. We are already half-way to the goal of fusion energy; with hard work we will deliver fusion power at commercial scale by 2030.”
News Article | October 23, 2015
It’s an old joke that many fusion scientists have grown tired of hearing: Practical nuclear fusion power plants are just 30 years away — and always will be. But now, finally, the joke may no longer be true: Advances in magnet technology have enabled researchers at MIT to propose a new design for a practical compact tokamak fusion reactor — and it’s one that might be realized in as little as a decade, they say. The era of practical fusion power, which could offer a nearly inexhaustible energy resource, may be coming near. Using these new commercially available superconductors, rare-earth barium copper oxide (REBCO) superconducting tapes, to produce high-magnetic field coils “just ripples through the whole design,” says Dennis Whyte, a professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center. “It changes the whole thing.” The stronger magnetic field makes it possible to produce the required magnetic confinement of the superhot plasma — that is, the working material of a fusion reaction — but in a much smaller device than those previously envisioned. The reduction in size, in turn, makes the whole system less expensive and faster to build, and also allows for some ingenious new features in the power plant design. The proposed reactor, using a tokamak (donut-shaped) geometry that is widely studied, is described in a paper in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design, co-authored by Whyte, PhD candidate Brandon Sorbom, and 11 others at MIT. The paper started as a design class taught by Whyte and became a student-led project after the class ended. The new reactor is designed for basic research on fusion and also as a potential prototype power plant that could produce significant power. The basic reactor concept and its associated elements are based on well-tested and proven principles developed over decades of research at MIT and around the world, the team says. “The much higher magnetic field,” Sorbom says, “allows you to achieve much higher performance.” Fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the sun, involves fusing pairs of hydrogen atoms together to form helium, accompanied by enormous releases of energy. The hard part has been confining the superhot plasma — a form of electrically charged gas — while heating it to temperatures hotter than the cores of stars. This is where the magnetic fields are so important—they effectively trap the heat and particles in the hot center of the device. While most characteristics of a system tend to vary in proportion to changes in dimensions, the effect of changes in the magnetic field on fusion reactions is much more extreme: The achievable fusion power increases according to the fourth power of the increase in the magnetic field. Thus, doubling the field would produce a 16-fold increase in the fusion power. “Any increase in the magnetic field gives you a huge win,” Sorbom says. While the new superconductors do not produce quite a doubling of the field strength, they are strong enough to increase fusion power by about a factor of 10 compared to standard superconducting technology, Sorbom says. This dramatic improvement leads to a cascade of potential improvements in reactor design. The world’s most powerful planned fusion reactor, a huge device called ITER that is under construction in France, is expected to cost around $40 billion. Sorbom and the MIT team estimate that the new design, about half the diameter of ITER (which was designed before the new superconductors became available), would produce about the same power at a fraction of the cost and in a shorter construction time. But despite the difference in size and magnetic field strength, the proposed reactor, called ARC, is based on “exactly the same physics” as ITER, Whyte says. “We’re not extrapolating to some brand-new regime,” he adds. Another key advance in the new design is a method for removing the the fusion power core from the donut-shaped reactor without having to dismantle the entire device. That makes it especially well-suited for research aimed at further improving the system by using different materials or designs to fine-tune the performance. In addition, as with ITER, the new superconducting magnets would enable the reactor to operate in a sustained way, producing a steady power output, unlike today’s experimental reactors that can only operate for a few seconds at a time without overheating of copper coils. Another key advantage is that most of the solid blanket materials used to surround the fusion chamber in such reactors are replaced by a liquid material that can easily be circulated and replaced, eliminating the need for costly replacement procedures as the materials degrade over time. “It’s an extremely harsh environment for [solid] materials,” Whyte says, so replacing those materials with a liquid could be a major advantage. Right now, as designed, the reactor should be capable of producing about three times as much electricity as is needed to keep it running, but the design could probably be improved to increase that proportion to about five or six times, Sorbom says. So far, no fusion reactor has produced as much energy as it consumes, so this kind of net energy production would be a major breakthrough in fusion technology, the team says. The design could produce a reactor that would provide electricity to about 100,000 people, they say. Devices of a similar complexity and size have been built within about five years, they say. “Fusion energy is certain to be the most important source of electricity on earth in the 22nd century, but we need it much sooner than that to avoid catastrophic global warming,” says David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy Ltd. in the UK, who was not connected with this research. “This paper shows a good way to make quicker progress,” he says. The MIT research, Kingham says, “shows that going to higher magnetic fields, an MIT speciality, can lead to much smaller (and hence cheaper and quicker-to-build) devices.” The work is of “exceptional quality,” he says; “the next step … would be to refine the design and work out more of the engineering details, but already the work should be catching the attention of policy makers, philanthropists and private investors.” The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
Tokamak Energy Ltd | Date: 2014-09-10
Disclosed herein is a toroidal field coil for generating a toroidal magnetic field in a nuclear fusion reactor comprising toroidal plasma chamber having a central column, the toroidal field coil comprising a plurality of windings passing through the central column and around the outside of the plasma chamber. Each winding includes a cable comprising a plurality of stacked HTS tapes, each HTS tape including one or more layers of a high temperature superconductor material. The HTS tapes are arranged such that a face of each HTS tape is parallel to the toroidal magnetic field as the cable passes through the centre column
Agency: GTR | Branch: Innovate UK | Program: | Phase: Smart - Proof of Market | Award Amount: 25.00K | Year: 2011
Culham Laboratory currently leads the world in the science and technology of tokamaks and magnetic confinement fusion. This is the most promising technology for the huge, long term, challenge of producing electricity from fusion. This project aims to establish the market demand for small tokamaks. In particular we will investigate the market for a small tokamak to produce a plasma suitable initially for plasma physics research and training and for R&D on plasma processing of materials for extreme environments. Technological breakthroughs with tokamaks at Culham, linked to advances in High Temperature Superconducting (HTS) magnets by Oxford Instruments, have led to this opportunity to design and develop a small tokamak (
Agency: GTR | Branch: Innovate UK | Program: | Phase: Smart - Development of Prototype | Award Amount: 250.00K | Year: 2012
Fusion power has the potential to be clean, green and plentiful. It is inherently safe and carries no risks of nuclear proliferation. Projections of future world energy supply anticipate fusion power being responsible for 36% of all global electricity production by the year 2100. However, with the present R&D proposals, including the €15bn investment in the ITER tokamak in France, it is unlikely that fusion power can become an economic reality before 2050. Tokamak Solutions has built an early prototype of a small tokamak that has the potential to speed up the fusion R&D process and bring forward the time when fusion power will be available. While huge experiments such as JET at Culham and the future ITER tokamak tackle major problems in fusion R&D, small tokamaks designed and built by Tokamak Solutions can tackle many of the challenges of fusion that are amenable to rapid development with a small device. In other words, Tokamak Solutions aims to provide a research tool to allow rapid incremental innovation in fusion in a way that is complementary to, and will speed up, mainstream fusion R&D. As demand for electricity increases (at 5% per annum worldwide) and global warming concerns increase, the need for fusion energy will become more pressing. Annual global expenditure on fusion energy R&D is about £2bn. Our proof of market study has shown that every country with a serious scientific effort would want its own tokamak for fusion research with the latest magnet technology. The objective of this project is to develop and demonstrate the world’s first tokamak with all its magnets made from high temperature superconductor (HTS). We will demonstrate that this small tokamak is easy to use by students and researchers and is capable of ground-breaking research. If we can win initial orders for small tokamaks from universities and research institutes, then the opportunities to participate in larger fusion projects will open up.
Agency: GTR | Branch: Innovate UK | Program: | Phase: Smart - Proof of Concept | Award Amount: 100.00K | Year: 2011
The business opportunity that this project addresses has been summarised in the editorial and main feature article in The Engineer published on 11 April 2011. In the words of the Editor: “The medical industry relies on nuclear fission for the production of radioactive isotopes – which are essential for a range of scanning techniques and cancer treatments. With the experimental reactors that produce these isotopes coming to the end of their lives and plans to prolong their lives or replace them suddenly not looking so straightforward [due to events at Fukushima], there are genuine fears that we’re heading for a worldwide shortage of nuclear medicine. But where one technology falters, another spies an opportunity and [as Appendix A explains], an impending radioisotope shortage could give nuclear fusion – the energy industry’s holy grail – a more immediate opportunity to prove its worth. Indeed, nuclear medicine is just one application that could drive the development of fusion, its usefulness as a source of neutrons could also see it being used to clean up nuclear waste and even to trigger fission reactions in new, safe, hybrid fusion-fission reactors… Despite its considerable promise, the commercial case for fusion is far from certain and, in an economic climate where investment is increasingly limited to dead-certs, its progress has been stuttering at best. But by providing genuine solutions to short-term problems its credibility will be improved, funding should be more forthcoming and, perhaps most importantly, engineers will continue to advance the technology to the point where it can be used for commercial energy generation.” The opportunity is for Tokamak Solutions UK Ltd (TSUK) to be first to secure valuable IP (patents and designs), first to market with a Compact Fusion Neutron Source (CFNS) and first to form collaborative partnerships with larger businesses capable of addressing each of the major markets for a CFNS. The opportunity arises from the UK’s world lead in fusion research at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE), TSUK’s invention of a CFNS based on a novel combination of existing technologies and recent developments in high temperature superconducting magnets. This project will set TSUK on course to seize the opportunity. The medical applications of a CFNS are of particular interest. As well as producing isotopes, our CFNS has the potential to produce neutron beams, initially for imaging research and then for clinical use. Fusion neutron beams may also be useful for neutron capture therapy (based on B, Ga and other elements) or for fast neutron therapy. Both of these therapies offer promising approaches to treatment of certain cancers. However, both are held back by the limitations of neutron sources, particularly by the lack of high flux sources suitable for a clinical environment. Appendix A, published in The Engineer on 11 April 2011, gives a good summary of our overall business proposition.