Companies to cooperate on HTS technologies for fusion energy and other applications
US headquartered General Atomics (GA) and UK headquartered Tokamak Energy Ltd have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate in the area of High Temperature Superconducting (HTS) technology for fusion energy and other industry applications. The collaboration would leverage GA’s world-leading capabilities for manufacturing large-scale magnet systems and Tokamak Energy’s pioneering expertise in HTS magnet technologies.
Creating clean, sustainable fusion energy requires strong magnetic fields to confine and control hydrogen fuel, which becomes a plasma several times hotter than the sun. Fusion power stations will provide safe and secure clean energy to towns and cities, and heat to industrial factories. One kilogram of fusion fuel releases the same amount of energy as burning around 10 million kilograms of coal, with no harmful emissions.
“GA is excited to collaborate with Tokamak Energy on HTS magnets. Tokamak Energy is a leader in HTS magnet modelling, design and prototyping and GA has expertise in developing and fabricating large-scale superconducting magnets for fusion applications.” said Anantha Krishnan, Senior Vice President at General Atomics.
Warrick Matthews, Managing Director at Tokamak Energy, said: “GA has significant experience, knowledge and facilities to produce large superconducting magnets at scale. Tokamak Energy has been developing HTS technologies for fusion for over a decade. The integration of these complementary capabilities promises to accelerate the development and production of HTS technologies in additional fields, such as aviation, naval, space and medical applications.”
HTS Magnet Applications to Fusion Energy
Magnetic fusion is the most thoroughly researched path to fusion energy. The approach utilizes a device known as a tokamak, which use several sets of powerful electromagnets to shape and confine superheated hydrogen gas – known as plasma. To achieve fusion conditions relevant for energy production, tokamaks must heat the gas to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius—more than ten times the temperature at the center of the sun. This is the threshold required for fusion to be a commercially viable energy source.
Strong magnetic fields are generated by passing large electrical currents around arrays of electromagnet coils that circle the plasma. The magnets are wound from ground-breaking HTS tapes, multi-layered conductors with a crucial internal coating of ‘rare earth barium copper oxide’ (REBCO) superconducting material. Developing more powerful HTS magnets will allow fusion power plants to use thinner magnetic coils while generating plasmas at greater densities. This would enable the facilities to operate with greater efficiency and smaller footprints, thereby improving their cost effectiveness.
Fusing hydrogen atoms in a tokamak produces approximately ten million times more energy than comparable chemical reactions, such as the burning of coal or natural gas, without producing any carbon emissions or long-lasting waste. When deployed at scale, fusion will serve as a nearly limitless source of clean, safe, and always-available energy.
Tokamak Energy has been a pioneer in recognizing the opportunity to apply and develop HTS magnet technology for fusion energy. It is also the only private fusion company to have more than 10 years’ experience of designing, building, and operating privately-owned tokamaks.
Tokamak Energy is a world-leader in the development of HTS magnets for fusion and other applications, with a proven track record:
- 2019: First conduction-cooled all REBCO magnet to exceed 22 Tesla at 20 Kelvin.
- 2020: 26.2T HTS magnet tested at CERN.
- 2022: Built world-first complete set of HTS magnet coils for Demo4 which will be assembled and tested in power plant-relevant scenarios.
- 2023: Gamma radiation testing at U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia Laboratories to prove HTS magnet lifetime durability.
- 2024: Demo4 spherical tokamak magnet device to start operations.
GA established its first fusion research and development programs in the 1950s and has over five decades of experience operating tokamaks. Following GA’s successful Doublet I and II tokamak experiments, the United States Atomic Energy Commission selected GA to construct the Doublet III (DIII) tokamak, which achieved its first plasma in early 1978. The DIII system was later modified to utilize a D-shaped cross section and established as the DIII-D National Fusion Facility. GA has operated DIII-D on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy since the program’s inception. The facility has played a significant role in advancing fusion science and technologies and is strongly positioned to provide key capabilities in support of the U.S. Decadal Vision to commercialize fusion energy.
GA began working on superconducting magnet technologies in the 1980s. In 2015, GA established its state-of-the-art Magnet Technologies Center (MTC) to fabricate the Central Solenoid modules for the international ITER experiment. When assembled, the 5-story, 1,000-ton Central Solenoid will drive 15 million amperes of electrical current in ITER’s fusion plasma. GA is developing a range of other technologies for ITER, including high-power microwave transmission line components, real-time plasma control software, and custom-made specialty diagnostic systems.