Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Energy from Fusion

PostedMay 15, 2016

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Anchor Lede: Nuclear fusion creates the energy that powers stars. If engineers could harness that power on Earth, we’d have virtually unlimited clean power. But it’s not easy.

Randy Atkins: The joke is fusion energy is thirty years away, and always will be. But Martin Greenwald, deputy director of M-I-T’s fusion center, isn’t deterred.

Martin Greenwald: Our goal is to put the lie to that joke, to make fusion practical and make it on a timescale which is relevant to solving the climate change problem.

Randy Atkins: While no pollutants would be emitted, the atoms fused – forms of hydrogen – are abundant, and it’s much safer than current nuclear fission reactors…fusion requires that...

Martin Greenwald: …we reach temperatures of 100-million degrees in this device.

Randy Atkins: Containing material that hot is a challenge. Greenwald’s group uses high-powered magnets to do it…but they’re made of large copper wires that use more energy than fusion produces. He says now there’s a potential game-changer though.

Martin Greenwald: Using new superconductors, we could build a machine that we think would produce net energy in 5-7 years.

Randy Atkins: Our fingers are crossed. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.