Boston: In a decisive step towards realizing the long-awaited dream of nuclear fusion intended to revolutionize the global energy sector, a large, high-temperature superconducting electromagnet was jointly invented by a team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIS ) and startup, Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS).
One of the scientists involved in this project is Dr Silvester Noronha, from Kollam district in Kerala. He is currently visiting professor at MIT and chief engineer of CFS in the United States.
The new electromagnet is the most powerful magnetic field of its kind ever created on earth. The goal of MIT-CFS scientists is now to build the “SPARC”, presented as the first operational fusion reactor.
What is fusion power
Fusion energy is a proposed form of electricity generation using heat from nuclear fusion reactions.
The newly developed electromagnet is ramped up to a field strength of 20 tesla. It resolves the main uncertainty in the construction of the fusion power plant. Today, nuclear reactors operate on the principle of fission, separating atoms. But fusion is the process of merging two small atoms into a bigger one, releasing a lot of energy. The melting process requires temperatures far beyond what any solid material could withstand.
The role of strong electromagnets
Since plasma is created at a temperature of 10 crore degrees Celsius, elements that resist temperature must be present in the reactors. Thus, electromagnets are made to keep the plasma in suspended animation. Strong magnets such as tokamaks, made of copper, are used for this purpose. Since there is not much of a difference between the energy required to operate these magnets and the energy received from this reactor, a nuclear fusion reactor is a deficit proposition. But with the invention of this unique superconducting electromagnet, a solution has now been found.
Since this powerful electromagnet used is small, the size of future nuclear fusion reactors could be significantly reduced.
Know the scientist
Dr Noronha is from Clappana in Karunagappally. He is the son of Meenathu JC Noronha and Girli. After completing his studies, he graduated and graduated from Fatima Mata National College, Kollam, and St Albert’s College, Ernakulam, respectively. He received his PhD from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in engineering materials science. He later obtained a post-doctoral degree at the British University of Oxford.
He has lived in the United States for 20 years. His wife Felicia is a health care auditor in the United States.