BACK TO THE FUSION
A MACHINE that generates clean power with temperatures hotter than the sun could solve the world’s energy crisis.
The Back To The Future-style fusion reactor runs purely on seawater and involves no harmful waste.
The latest trials resulted in the process producing 59 megajoules of sustained energy — enough to boil 60 kettles over five seconds.
That is more than double what was achieved in similar tests in 1997.
Experts believe the reactor will mean the end of the need to rely on oil and gas.
It is also being heralded as the answer to combating climate change.
Scientists at the Joint European Torus (JET) laboratory, based near Oxford, have been working since the 1980s on the process.
Unlike a nuclear power station, which splits atoms, this system squeezes together two forms of hydrogen — deuterium and tritium — until they fuse.
The process is similar to how the sun creates energy.
It mirrors the Mr Fusion generator that powers Marty McFly’s flying DeLorean time-machine in the Back To The Future movies, though that one was fuelled by garbage.
Professor Ian Chapman, boss of UK Atomic Energy Authority which is leading the project, said: “Fusion is the root source of the power of the sun. We have been trying for a long time to recreate that power.
“This machine is an experiment but we are very close to proving it can work on a bigger scale. Fusion is a massive part of our battle against climate change and creates virtually carbon-free power.”
He explained a bath full of water contains enough energy to supply one person’s power needs for life.
The JET fusion reactor heats its fuel to about 150 million degrees — around ten times hotter than the sun. It is encased in 2½m thick concrete because of the neutrons it emits.
Because it is so hot, the fuel cannot touch anything in the reactor, so it is levitated by magnets.
Prof Chapman added: “What we see in the reactor is a pink-ish ball of ethereal, sparkling energy floating in mid-air — quite magical.”
He claimed the reactor could help the world reach its Net Zero target by 2050 — if properly funded.
He said: “We’re aiming at 2040 for a prototype but things can be accelerated.”
Science minister George Freeman said: “We know how urgently we need sustainable energy. This is a part of the answer.
“These extraordinary scientists have demonstrated that fusion power is not just legitimate, it is within grasp.”