Researchers at the University of Twente have developed a new superconducting cable system that is crucial to the success of nuclear fusion reactors.
The superconductivity research group of the University of Twente (UT) has made a technological breakthrough crucial to the success of nuclear fusion reactors, allowing for clean, inexhaustible energy generation based on the workings of the stars in our galaxy. The crux of the new development is a highly ingenious and robust superconducting cable system. This makes for a remarkably strong magnetic field that controls the very hot, energy-generating plasma in the reactor core, laying the foundation for nuclear fusion. The new cables are far less susceptible to heating due to a clever way of interweaving, which allows for a significant increase in the possibilities to control the plasma. Moreover, in combination with an earlier UT invention, the cables are able to withstand the immense forces inside the reactor for a very long time. The increased working life of the superconductors and the improved control of the plasma will soon make nuclear fusion energy more reliable: the magnet coils take up one third of the costs of a nuclear fusion power station. The longer their working life, the cheaper the energy will be. The research is a project within the context of the Green Energy Initiative of the University of Twente.
Cost-effective clean energy Project leader Arend Nijhuis: ‘The worldwide development of nuclear fusion reactors is picking up steam, and this breakthrough leads to a new impulse. Our new cables have already been extensively tested in two institutes.’ Mr Nijhuis has been invited for a new collaboration with China and expects that the UT system will become a global standard. The world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor, ITER, is under construction in Cadarache in France, and is expected to start operation by 2020, as a joint project of the US, EU, Russia, India, Japan, South Korea and China. However, China and South Korea have also initiated their own national large-scale nuclear fusion projects, in which the UT technology can be incorporated.