Imagine for a second that we could recreate a star on Earth and use it as a clean energy source. How cool would it be to not just harvest the Sun’s power, but to also reproduce it? Well, we are on our way to doing just that.
On April 17th, 2020, after 12 years of collaboration between European countries, the USA, Russia, Japan, India, China, and South Korean, the first of 18 magnets that we need to develop fusion energy was unveiled. These magnets are part of building ITER, an experimental machine for producing the energy.
The goal is to reproduce energy production inside the Sun's core, where two light hydrogen atoms – at very high temperatures – collide and fuse into one helium atom, releasing the energy that supports life on Earth.
Reproducing this on our planet requires the ability to run a reaction at a temperature of 150 million °C, where hydrogen exists in the form of ionized gas (also called plasma). Under these conditions, the plasma is extremely hot and difficult to manage. This is where the magnets come in. They are part of a donut-shaped machine called a tokamak, which can contain the plasma through powerful magnetic fields sustained by enormous magnets. Different prototype tokamaks exist around Europe, but ITER will be the first capable of maintaining the plasma for at least 1000 seconds. This will put its power output on par with traditional coal or oil-powered plants. The plan is that ITER will be ready to generate the first plasma
ITER is being built in the South of France. The machine will be a giant: 24 meters high and 30 meters wide, weighing 30 tons. According to the plan, ITER will generate its First Plasma by the end of 2025.