New design could finally help to bring the long-sought power source closer to reality.
David L. Chandler | MIT News Office
August 10, 2015
A cutaway view of the proposed ARC reactor. Thanks to powerful new magnet technology, the much smaller, less-expensive ARC reactor would deliver the same power output as a much larger reactor. Illustration courtesy of the MIT ARC team
It’s an old joke that many fusion scientists have grown tired of hearing: Practical nuclear fusion power plants are just 30 years away — and always will be.
But now, finally, the joke may no longer be true: Advances in magnet technology have enabled researchers at MIT to propose a new design for a practical compact tokamak fusion reactor — and it’s one that might be realized in as little as a decade, they say. The era of practical fusion power, which could offer a nearly inexhaustible energy resource, may be coming near.
Using these new commercially available superconductors, rare-earth barium copper oxide (REBCO) superconducting tapes, to produce high-magnetic field coils “just ripples through the whole design,” says Dennis Whyte, a professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center. “It changes the whole thing.”
The stronger magnetic field makes it possible to produce the required magnetic confinement of the superhot plasma — that is, the working material of a fusion reaction — but in a much smaller device than those previously envisioned. The reduction in size, in turn, makes the whole system less expensive and faster to build, and also allows for some ingenious new features in the power plant design. The proposed reactor, using a tokamak (donut-shaped) geometry that is widely studied, is described in a paper in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design, co-authored by Whyte, PhD candidate Brandon Sorbom, and 11 others at MIT. The paper started as a design class taught by Whyte and became a student-led project after the class ended. Continue reading →
Eric Wang started his lab at MIT in 2013 through receiving an NIH Early Independence Award. Learn about the path that led him to study myotonic dystrophy a disease that affects his family. Erics team of researchers includes Ona McConnell an avid field hockey goalie who is affected by myotonic dystrophy herself. Determined to make a difference Eric and Ona hope to inspire others in their efforts to better understand and treat this disease.
REALLY cool technology and research from a collaboration between MIT, Microsoft, and Adobe: The Visual Microphone.
From the link: When sound hits an object, it causes small vibrations of the object’s surface. We show how, using only high-speed video of the object, we can extract those minute vibrations and partially recover the sound that produced them, allowing us to turn everyday objects—a glass of water, a potted plant, a box of tissues, or a bag of chips—into visual microphones.
Basically, this technology allows us to “hear” a sound just by watching a video of the vibrations sound waves cause on an objects surface. Just speculating here, but this sort of technology seems like it could be really useful for things like spying, detective-work, the intelligence sector, etc. A lot of information can be gathered from things like video surveillance footage if sound data can simply be extracted by visualizing the vibrations of objects in the frame.
On that note, maybe these researchers can help clear up the controversy over the Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Solange elevator fight… If their technology can visualize vibrations in that elevator, I wonder if we’d be able to “hear” what Solange was so mad about…