TAE records plasma temperature milestone

April 12, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Construction of Norman was completed in 2017. Photo: TAE Technologies

TAE Technologies has announced that it has produced a stable plasma of over 50 million degrees celsius inside a fusion device using a beam-driven, field-reversed configuration. “By generating such stable high-temperature plasmas, TAE has now validated that the company’s unique approach can scale to the conditions necessary for an economically viable commercial fusion power plant by the end of the decade,” the company declared in its April 8 press release. The company added that the results indicate the design’s linear configuration improves plasma confinement as temperatures rise.

A power-generating fusion device must maintain a plasma at sufficiently high temperatures for a long enough amount of time to sustain a fusion reaction. According to TAE, in 2015, the company’s previous machine validated that their approach can sustain plasma for an indefinite length of time. The company says it has now achieved the temperature needed to scale to reactor-level performance and that it has received $280 million in additional investment funding to support the construction of a demonstration facility.

Background: TAE’s current platform is a fifth-generation device nicknamed Norman, in honor of Norman Rostoker, who cofounded the company in 1998. Roughly 24 m long, 7 m high, and weighing about 27 metric tons, Norman is used to perform about 650 experiments a month. While Norman operates with hydrogen and deuterium fuel, TAE plans to scale its design to produce power using a hydrogen-boron fuel cycle, also known as an H-B11 or p-B11 fuel cycle. The next step in that plan is the development of a demonstration facility called Copernicus that will operate above 100 million °C to simulate net energy production from the conventional deuterium-tritium fuel cycle.

“[Achieving 50 million °C] is an incredibly rewarding milestone and an apt tribute to the vision of my late mentor, Norman Rostoker,” said TAE chief executive officer Michl Binderbauer. “Norman and I wrote a paper in the 1990s theorizing that a certain plasma dominated by highly energetic particles should become increasingly better confined and stable as temperatures increase. We have now been able to demonstrate this plasma behavior with overwhelming evidence.”

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