Exciting news came from the area of nuclear fusion energy this past week as the team from the Alcator C-Mod tokamak announced their new world record for plasma pressure. Before getting to that, please note that you can interact with the C-Mod Team during their Ask Me Anything session hosted by Reddit on Thursday, October 20 beginning at 13:00 EDT. More information at https://www.reddit.com/r/science/
This record achievement came about on September 30, 2016 during the very last experiment at C-Mod. The tokamak facility is now shut down, leaving only one major facility operating within the Department of Energy’s Fusion Energy Sciences portfolio (the NSTX-U facility is hopefully down for only one year). C-Mod’s experiences during the end of their experimental campaign is covered by MIT News.
An excellent set of descriptions and general explanations for this can be found at the Alcator C-Mod Pressure Record: FAQ. That FAQ is a great example of the talented student population at C-Mod (I couldn’t imagine getting senior scientists to prepare a clear explanation of the pressure record in “layman’s terms“).
This leads us to the most important question: how does the pressure of a tokamak plasma compare to a regulation NFL football?
To address that question, I have updated the football comparison graphic and show the result below. Not only has C-Mod surpassed the 2 atm mark for the first time in the history of tokamak operations, but it has also become the first tokamak to produce a plasma pressure greater than a regulation NFL football.
Of course, the pressure of a Tom Brady football is much easier to surpass.
Congratulations to the C-Mod Team for their accomplishment!