If you happen to hear that “fusion has evolved into an engineering challenge,” there is a lot of truth in that simplification. Our global community is expanding research projects to better address the engineering unknowns related to producing energy from a fusion device. The science and plasma physics of fusion energy remains a big part of this effort, however, as the final integrated system has a wide range of variability depending on how many different physics issues shake out.
In a new publication by Xavier Litaudon and colleagues, a wealth of experimental data from many different international devices is examined together to show the progress in operating high-performance fusion plasmas for extended periods of time. In doing so, the authors also illustrate the challenges of extended length operation.
As shown below (and detailed in the publication), there is a clear trend in magnetic confinement devices operating either at high performance levels, or for extended periods of time, but not achieving both simultaneously. Needed advances to address present gaps include control physics, scenario optimization, and conditioning techniques for plasma-facing wall structures.
X. Litaudon, et al., Nuclear Fusion 64, 015001 (2024), https://doi.org/10.1088/1741-4326/ad0606
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