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Project with Swiss participation achieves record in nuclear fusion

An international research team with Swiss participation has announced a world record in energy production through nuclear fusion. The "Jet" fusion plant in the UK generated 69 megajoules of energy from 0.2 milligrams of fuel, the Eurofusion research consortium announced to the media on Thursday.

This is the largest amount of energy ever achieved in a fusion experiment. "This new record gives us confidence for the future," Yves Martin told the Keystone-SDA news agency. Martin is deputy director of the Swiss Plasma Center at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), which is involved in the record-breaking project.

The 69 megajoules achieved with "Jet" (Joint European Torus) are roughly equivalent to the energy needed to run a washing machine for ten hours. For the same amount of energy, it would have taken around two kilograms of lignite instead of the 0.2 milligrams of fuel - around ten million times as much, according to Eurofusion.

However, even this record did not result in a positive energy balance, Martin explained. According to the researcher, around three times more energy was put in than was generated. According to Martin, a larger plant would be needed to generate more energy.

High temperatures

The principle behind nuclear fusion is simple: just like in the sun, hydrogen atoms are fused into helium at high temperatures. This releases energy. The hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium were used for this in the "jet".

Martin estimates that it will be around twenty years before this technology can be used to produce electricity for households. "We expect the first prototypes of fusion reactors to be ready by 2045," said the researcher.

One of the last experiments with "Jet"

The world record for the "Jet" was set on October 3, 2023, surpassing the record of 59 megajoules set in 2021.

The record was set in one of the last experiments in the "Jet" fusion plant. After 40 years, operation of the facility was discontinued in December 2023. Evaluations of experiments carried out at the "Jet" are still ongoing, as the researchers explained at the media conference.

"The fact that we have been able to make such progress with the plant even after four decades is a very good sign of the progress we will make with the new fusion reactor 'Iter'," said Martin. "Iter" (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is a major international project that is currently building a test reactor in France. The Swiss Plasma Center is also involved in "Iter".

©Keystone/SDA

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