June 16 (India Today) – Amid a growing push towards producing clean energy to replace fossil fuel and other non-renewable sources of energy, France is set to get the world’s most powerful magnet for a fusion reactor that aims to replicate the process that powers the Sun.
Dubbed as Central Solenoid, the powerful magnet is strong enough to lift an aircraft carrier 6 feet in the air. It will be a central component of France’s energy project.
Also referred to as the “beating heart of the machine,” the magnet has been conceptualised, designed and manufactured by General Atomics, which will now ship it to the ITER facility in southern France. Several components have already been arriving in France even during the Covid-19 pandemic and the arrival of the Solenoid will make up the ITER Tokamak, a “Sun on Earth” to demonstrate fusion at an industrial scale.
“The Central Solenoid, the largest of ITER’s magnets, will be made up of six modules,” General Atomics said in a statement.
World’s biggest magnet
The Central Solenoid will play a critical role in ITER’s mission to establish fusion energy as it induces a powerful current in the ITER plasma, helping to shape and control the fusion reaction. When assembled, the magnet will be 59 feet tall and 14 feet wide, weighing a thousand tons.
The massive magnetic force generated by the magnet is capable of lifting an aircraft carrier 6 feet into the air reaching a magnetic field of strength of 13 Tesla. To put that force in perspective, it is about 2,80,000 times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field. The massive field generated will require the supporting structure to withstand forces equal to twice the thrust of a space shuttle lift-off, General Atomics said in a statement.
Each module requires more than two years of precision fabrication from more than 5 kilometres of steel-jacketed niobium-tin superconducting cable. While the company will ship the magnet to France, five additional Central Solenoid modules and a spare are at various stages of fabrication.
What is ITER?
One of the most ambitious energy projects in the world, ITER will be the first device to maintain fusion for long periods of time and test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics needed for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity.A view of ITER energy project in France. (Photo: ITER)
A global assembly, the project has China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States engaged in a 35-year collaboration to build and operate the ITER experimental device. The team of over a thousand engineers and scientists aims to demonstrate that a fusion reactor can be designed.
“The ITER project is the most complex scientific collaboration in history,” Dr Bernard Bigot, Director-General of the ITER Organisation said.