MIT researchers design compact nuclear fusion reactor

A cutaway view of the proposed ARC reactor from the ARC team at MIT.
A cutaway view of the proposed ARC reactor from the ARC team at MIT. | Courtesy of MIT

A team of researchers from the Mass. Institute of Technology (MIT) has proposed a design for an affordable, robust compact (ARC) nuclear fusion reactor, they announced on Monday.

According to the report the proposed ARC reactor would be able to produce the energy of larger nuclear reactors that are currently in operation with advances in magnet technology. MIT researchers state that available technology is able to produce the necessary magnetic field to manage superhot plasma within a smaller device.
With this reduction in size now a theoretical possibility, researchers state that construction costs and the time necessary to build a reactor would be reduced.

The proposed reactor is detailed in a paper that was recently published in Fusion Engineering and Design and was authored by a group MIT students and faculty, including Professor Dennis Whyte and Ph.D. candidate, Brandon Sorbom.

According to Sorbom, increases in the capability of a magnetic field would increase achievable fusion power by a power of four, he explains that if the capacity of a field were to double the achievable fusion power would increase by 16 times. Current magnet technology would bring approximately 10-fold increase in the fusion power capacity. 

“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,” David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy Ltd. in the UK, said. “This paper shows a good way to make quicker progress."

The research team states that this reactor design could be realized in approximately 10 years.

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