We’re building a reactor. We’re going to tell you why fusion matters, why our project matters and where we’re going from here.
Applied Fusion Systems sees nuclear fusion as the inevitable solution to humanity’s energy problem. Put simply: How do you keep the lights on without destroying the planet?
Our answer is taking shape and we’re very excited.
The concept is based on a design called a tokamak. That’s a Russian acronym which roughly translates as “Toroidal chamber with magnetic coils”. Here’s what they look like:
Tokamaks work by levitating hot plasma with incredibly strong magnetic fields. The hot plasma contains two forms of Hydrogen, Deuterium and Tritium, which fuse to make Helium and release energy. In the image above the plasma (purple) circulates inside the donut shaped vessel which is surrounded by ‘D’-shaped magnetic coils.
Figuring out the right way to do all this is hard. Until recently the supercomputing resources needed to accurately predict how the plasma would behave simply didn’t exist. Now they do and that’s why we’re excited.
Plasmas don’t behave like gases. Gases obey the laws of hydrodynamics, they flow about in response to differences in pressure, a gas particle only notices its immediate neighbours by bumping into them. Plasmas on the other hand obey the laws of magnetohydrodynamics, a dizzyingly complex branch of physics which combines Maxwell’s laws with those of hydrodynamics. The reason for the stark difference is that the nuclei and electrons in plasmas are electrically charged, whereas gas particles are not. As a result a plasma particle feels the forces generated by other particles both near and far, vastly complicating the mathematics.
Having heated plasma to around 100M Centigrade some of the Deuterium and Tritium nuclei will collide and fuse releasing energy in the form of heat. The end goal is to produce enough heat to keep the plasma hot and still have enough left over to drive a turbine and produce electricity.
But let’s take a step back and look at the $6,000B/year global energy market. In many countries energy costs are second only to health care. Energy is big business, especially in emerging markets, sadly high costs are damping potential growth all over the world. We only need to look at the uncontrollable costs of the U.K.’s Hinkley Point project to see that something has gone badly wrong with the “old nuclear” industry’s costs. A change is needed.
We believe the time is ripe for a new approach to the fusion puzzle, the new generation of REBCO superconductors and the collapse in the price of supercomputing resources means that for the first time a new entrant in the fusion sector makes economic sense.
3 years ago Cycle Computing ran code on Amazon’s cluster at a cost of 36 Gigaflops per dollar!
Fusion is not held back the way old nuclear is. It produces no long-lived waste and cannot melt-down. The primary fuels are Deuterium which is found in seawater, and Lithium which is abundant in the Earth’s crust. These reserves should keep us going for 20,000 years.
Some more good news. The U.K is a world class research leader in fusion technology. Take a trip to the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) to see JET or MAST, two remarkable and very different tokamaks. In addition, universities like Imperial college, Warwick and York are well known for their strong plasma physics and fusion credentials. The U.K. fusion sector has a deep bench of talent to draw from.
This is the right place and the right time to dive into fusion in a big way. Applied Fusion Systems is delighted to announce the start of our reactor project. We are starting with physics simulation and design validation before moving on to prototyping.
If you would like to be kept up to date then join our think tank and you won’t miss a thing.
Thank you from the team at AFS.