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Complete physical basis for a new fusion reactor design

SPARC 2020

Rendering of SPARC, a compact, high-field, DT-burning tokamak, currently being designed by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Commonwealth Fusion Systems. Its mission is to create and confine a plasma that produces net fusion energy. Credit: CFS / MIT-PSFC ̵

1; CAD rendering by T. Henderson

As part of Journal of Plasma Physics “ continued focus on scientific advancement in fusion physics, the editors of the journal and Cambridge University Press are proud to present a major special issue of JPP, “Status of the SPARC Physics Basis”.

The seven peer-reviewed articles in this special issue provide a comprehensive summary of the physical underpinnings of SPARC: a compact, high-field, DT-burning tokamak, currently being designed by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Commonwealth Fusion Systems.

SPARC is a new fusion reactor concept based on the fusion of hydrogen nuclei rather than the splitting of uranium atoms. The intense design work in progress a MIT is based on two great ideas. They are leveraging decades of scientific advancements in magnetic confinement fusion and marrying this with recent breakthroughs in high-temperature superconductor technology. How they will handle the challenges of delivering on the promise of fusion energy with these foundations is outlined in these seven peer-reviewed articles that make up the special issue of JPP.

William Dorland, JPP Editor, University of Maryland, USA, said, “This is one of the growing merger projects with significant non-government funding, and is the first and only project with substantial private funding to publish a detailed, peer – revised study of the physical basis of the proposed experiment. I expect this collection of documents to raise the level that private investors use to estimate the risks and rewards associated with investing in the merger. “

This advance puts researchers in a position to take advantage of a technological innovation developed outside the field, namely the emergence of high-temperature superconductors (HTS) as a practical engineering material.

Guest Editorial Author Martin Greenwald, Plasma Science & Fusion Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “These studies put SPARC on a solid scientific foundation. When we build and use the machine as described in these documents, we expect to reach our melting gain goal and to produce a great deal of new and important information on plasma combustion. “

By leveraging the extensive advancement in tokamak physics, the SPARC project was fundamentally informed by existing experimental observations, as was ITER, but also by first principles, theory-based modeling. Both approaches result in essentially the same overall prediction plasma melt performance and gain, thus increasing confidence in the projections. Work in progress involves the use of state-of-the-art codes for calculating RF heating, turbulent transport, pedestal structure, edge profiles, MHD stability, and fast alpha ripple losses.

The seven papers examine basic machine parameters, core and pedestal performance predictions, RF heating, divertor physics, MHD, interruptions, and fast particle confinement.

“JPP is proud to host this series of important documents, which explain how to use state-of-the-art plasma physics science to design and engineer a fusion reactor experiment. Plasma physicists are part of a vibrant scientific community driven by technological advances. We are thrilled to be the platform of choice for the SPARC team for this series of leading scientific publications. This strengthens a standard for how new experiments can be proposed: in an open access and peer-reviewed format. “

William Dorland, Journal of Plasma Physics

With the basic machine parameters set, the SPARC team of physicists has already initiated a more in-depth level of physical analysis, aimed at informing and confirming design choices, developing a series of operational scenarios and control strategies, defining diagnostic needs and outline the scientific research program.

For more information on SPARC, read Validating the physics behind the new fusion experiment designed by MIT.

Reference: “Status of the SPARC physics basis” by Martin Greenwald, 29 September 2020, 29 September 2020, Journal of Plasma Physics.
DOI: 10.1017 / S0022377820001063

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