The 3 X 3 foot-sized student-built Nuclear Fusion reactor will be the first of its kind to be constructed for nuclear fusion in a university.
The first nuclear fusion reactor to be created, constructed, and run by students will be located in Australia. According to a news release, the project is being developed by the University of New South Wales (UNSW), although it won’t use nuclear fuel.
Atoms of lighter elements, such as hydrogen, are heated to hundreds of millions of degrees Celsius in a process known as nuclear fusion, which enables their fusing when subjected to intense forces. Large amounts of energy are released throughout the process, which can then be used to power machinery and devices.
The same process that occurs on the sun may possibly be exploited to instantly supply carbon-free energy to the planet.
Devices to bring about nuclear fusion
The biggest difficulty with nuclear fusion has been getting more energy out of the reaction than is required to set up the conditions for the process. High-power lasers and tokamak reactors—the latter of which the UNSW students will experiment with—have been used by scientists to do this.
A doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber lined with strong magnets is known as a tokamak. These are employed to heat hydrogen atoms to extremely high temperatures and control them.
The construction of the reactor is a component of the university’s Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) program, which encourages students to work with academic supervisors on lengthy and challenging projects. The university intends to use high-power lasers in the future.
What will students do?
Students working on this project will need to solve complex technical problems, collaborate closely with business partners, and push the limits of fusion energy, according to Patrick Burr, a lecturer at UNSW’s Mechanical and Manufacturing technical department.
The project’s goal is to “excite the next generation of innovators” and show them how they can significantly alter the course of human history, not to produce fusion-based energy. In order to aid in the education of nuclear engineers and to produce isotopes for use in business and medicine, many institutions throughout the world operate miniature reactors based on nuclear fission technology. The first nuclear fusion technology setup has been established at UNSW.
The projected tokamak device is only 3 X 3 feet (1 X 1 meter) in size, which is quite modest. However, handling high voltages and learning skills that can be used in places like space travel, transportation, and safety-critical infrastructure will be necessary for the students to develop the gadget.
The team will also examine how the technology will affect society. Burr added that this project will be significantly different and focus on determining how the fusion industry needs to interact with society. “Sometimes in the nuclear industry, the engineering happens, and then, almost as an afterthought, a spokesperson has to try to explain what the impacts are on society,” he said.
The working device is expected to be operational in two to three years.