UK Fusion Company Tokamak Energy Burns Through Plasma Milestone

Cleantech Investing
Cleantech Investing

Privately owned Tokamak Energy says it has achieved plasma temperatures hotter than the Sun’s core at its ST40 reactor.

UK-based Tokamak Energy says it reached a milestone last week, achieving plasma temperatures of over 15 million degrees Celsius with its ST40 reactor. 

According to the privately owned company, that’s hotter than the center of the Sun, and is a key step in delivering clean energy through fusion power.

“Reaching 15 million degrees is yet another indicator of the progress at Tokamak Energy and a further validation of our approach,” said Jonathan Carling, CEO of Tokamak. “Our aim is to make fusion energy a commercial reality by 2030.”

Fusion is the energy source that powers the Sun, and Tokamak says it is “globally accepted as the best way to generate plentiful, safe, secure and clean energy” — for context, a single spoonful of liquid hydrogen processed in a fusion reactor can reportedly generate the same amount of energy as 28 tons of coal, and comes without radioactive waste and greenhouse gases.

With that impetus, companies like Tokamak are attempting to recreate fusion, which relies on the collision of high-heat, high-pressure hydrogen atoms, using devices called tokamaks.

Tokamaks were developed in the mid-1960s by Soviet scientists, and are used to produce controlled fusion reactions in hot plasma. They are the best-understood path to reaching fusion, and are made up of a system of magnetic fields that confine the plasma of reactive charged particles in a hollow container.

These containers were traditionally shaped like donuts, but Tokamak’s ST40 reactor is a tokamak with a spherical shape. The company says this alternative shape, coupled with the latest high-temperature superconductors, provides the path forward for commercial fusion power in smaller machines.

Comprised of rare earth barium copper oxide, the superconductors are responsible for creating the ST40 reactor’s system of magnetic fields.

“Our business plan is built on strong scientific foundations and this milestone is a significant step in our compact spherical tokamak route to fusion power,” said Dr. David Kingham, Tokomak’s co-founder.

While the company’s 15-million-degree milestone last week was a major step forward, Tokomak says there is still plenty to be done. The ST40 reactor, which was turned on in 2017, is just the third machine in a five-stage plan geared at producing abundant clean energy from fusion.

“The machine is built, it works. And now the next stage is to tune it up towards fusion energy,” said Carling, adding that the company’s next goal is to reach 100 million degrees Celsius — that’s seven times hotter than the Sun and is the temperature required for fusion.

“We’ll be doing that with an upgraded ST40 in a new facility. We’ll be adding new equipment to allow the unit to go to higher power. And once we’ve done that, we’ll have really demonstrated that we are by far and away the most advanced privately funded fusion company in the world,” he explained.

Want to learn more about Tokamak? Watch the video below for commentary on the company’s latest news and next steps from Carling.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Charlotte McLeod, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

The Conversation (1)
Ali Bulut
Ali Bulut
03 Jan, 2019
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