Fusion power is a carbon-free, combustion-free source of energy that uses fusion reactions to produce heat for electricity generation—and it may well be the way we power our future lives. Read about how it works.
Although, it has been the dream of energy researchers for years, fusion power remained out of reach because of the investment necessary to develop it for practical use. MIT has just announced, however, that it is putting fusion power on the fast track. With $50 million from an Italian energy investor, the Institute and the new private company Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) are preparing to launch a rapid research program leading to the development of a working pilot plant within 15 years.
The project was conceived by MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) researchers Robert Mumgaard SM ’15, PhD ’15 (now the CEO of CFS), Dan Brunner, PhD ’13, Brandon Sorbom, PhD ’17, and Zach Hartwig PhD ’14, assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT. Director Dennis Whyte and Deputy Director Martin Greenwald will lead the effort, which will include a broad interdisciplinary team.
We need a new approach
Mitigating global climate change, Hartwig told MIT News, will require new sources of zero-carbon energy on a very fast track. “We are going to need a completely new approach to ensure that fusion energy can be a significant part of the solution. The hard reality of climate change is that every single nation that has ever industrialized and made a better life for its citizens did so at the expense of the climate. There is, at present, simply no other way to do this than to dump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels for energy.”
CFS will join the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) as part of the new university-industry partnership designed to bolster MIT research and teaching on the science of fusion. MIT President L. Rafael Reif described the project launch as an important historical moment. “Advances in superconducting magnets have put fusion energy potentially within reach, offering the prospect of a safe, carbon-free energy future,” he said. “As humanity confronts the rising risks of climate disruption, I am thrilled that MIT is joining with industrial allies, both longstanding and new, to run full-speed toward this transformative vision for our shared future on Earth.”
See MIT Vice President for Research Maria Zuber’s op-ed in the Boston Globe.
Find out more about the MIT-CFS fusion project.
Read a Q&A with one of the project originators Zach Hartwig