The magnetic fields are produced by superconducting coils surrounding the vessel, and by an electrical current driven through the plasma.
A major step forward in fusion occurred in 1968 when the Russian scientists Tamm and Sakharov announced results from a new type of magnetic confinement device called a tokamak. The toroidal, or doughnut-shaped, vacuum vessel was able to run at temperatures nearly ten times higher than any other device at the time. Since its invention, many international experiments have relied on the tokamak concept.
American efforts on magnetic confinement fusion are being led by the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), based in Princeton, New Jersey. In January, 2012, PPPL announced an upgrade to their tokamak. The project will upgrade the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX) facility at PPPL with completion scheduled for 2014. The work will enhance the position of the NSTX as the world’s most powerful tokamak.
ITER will be the largest tokamak ever built. Conceived as a necessary experimental step on the road to a demonstration fusion power plant, the reactor will be twice the size of JET, the world’s largest tokamak currently in operation.
ASP hosted a symposium on June 5, 2012, entitled “Magnetic Fusion Energy – Steps to Commercialization.” Check out links to presentations, blog posts, and videos of the event by clicking here.