In the Joint European Torus (JET)'s final deuterium-tritium experiments (DTE3), high fusion power was consistently produced for five seconds, resulting in a record of 69MJ using 0.2mg of fuel.
Over 300 scientists and engineers from EUROfusion – a consortium of researchers across Europe - contributed to these plasma science, materials science and neutronics-focussed experiments that took place between 31st August and 14th October, 2023 at the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) site in Oxford.
In a statement, Professor Ambrogio Fasoli, programme manager (CEO) at EUROfusion, said: “Our successful demonstration of operational scenarios for future fusion machines, validated by the new energy record, instil greater confidence in the development of fusion energy. Beyond setting a new record, we achieved things we’ve never done before and deepened our understanding of fusion physics.”
Most approaches to creating commercial fusion favour the use of deuterium and tritium, two heavier variants of ordinary hydrogen that offer the highest reactivity of all fusion fuels.
At a temperature of 150 million degrees Celsius, deuterium and tritium fuse together to form helium and release a tremendous amount of heat energy that is harnessed to produce electricity in a similar way to existing power stations. JET’s tokamak design uses magnetic fields to confine the plasma.
JET, which concluded its scientific operations at the end of December 2023, demonstrated sustained fusion over five seconds at high power and set a world-record in 2021. JET’s first deuterium-tritium experiments took place in 1997.
The facility’s research findings will inform ITER – a fusion research project being built in the south of France – plus the UK’s STEP prototype powerplant, Europe’s demonstration powerplant, DEMO, and other global fusion projects.
Professor Sir Ian Chapman, UKAEA CEO, said: “JET has operated as close to powerplant conditions as is possible with today’s facilities, and its legacy will be pervasive in all future powerplants. It has a critical role in bringing us closer to a safe and sustainable future.”
If proven to be viable, fusion will provide a baseload source of heat and electricity using small amounts of fuel that can be sourced worldwide from inexpensive materials.