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Carbon-free nuclear fusion power within reach, according to MIT

Carbon-free nuclear fusion power within reach, according to MIT

The venture's stated goal is to demonstrate the viability of commercial fusion power plants within 15 years.

"Fusion is the true energy source of the future, as it is completely sustainable, does not release emissions or long-term waste, and is potentially inexhaustible", said Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Italian energy company Eni which is now collaborating with MIT on the project.

The team will use a new class of high-temperature superconductors they predict will allow them to create the world's first fusion reactor that produces more energy than needs to be put in to get the fusion reaction going. However, the field of fusion research is littered with failed predictions.

Eni will support CFS to develop the first commercial power plant producing energy by fusion in what it describes as "a safe, sustainable, virtually inexhaustible source without any emission of pollutants and greenhouse gases". A small amount of mass is converted directly into energy in the process, in accordance with Albert Einstein's famous E=mc equation.

By 2040 or so, we'll have robots doing all the work and clean, cheap fusion providing all the power we need.

If the experiment proceeds as expected, SPARC should produce about 100 megawatts of pulsed power in the form of heat, demonstrating net energy gain.

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"The team at Commonwealth and MIT plans to spend the next three years using the new superconducting material, a steel tape coated with a compound called yttrium-barium-copper oxide, to make new magnets that could be used to make net power output possible and commercially viable".

The planned fusion experiment, called Sparc, is set to be far smaller - about 1/65th of the volume - than that of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, an international collaboration.

Commenting on the team's approach, Zach Hartwig, assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, said: "The high-field pathway to fusion energy proposed by MIT and CFS seeks to take the best of both approaches - coupling the proven physics of the tokamak with the drive of a company focussed on commercialisation - and isolating the majority of the technical risk in the engineering development of the high-field magnets".

Italian energy company Eni will conduct research with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and invest in a company created by former MIT scientists to produce energy from nuclear fusion.

In a statement, Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi said his company's investment marked a "significant step toward the development of alternative energy sources with an ever-lower environmental impact".

Italian oil major Eni plans to invest $50 million into a U.S. research project into nuclear fusion, it said Friday.