Ignitor: MIT-Projected Fusion Reactor

MIT News


New project aims for fusion ignition

MIT-led Ignitor reactor could be the world’s first to reach major milestone, perhaps paving the way for eventual power production.
May 10, 2010
Exterior view of the Ignitor fusion reactor, whose core will be built in Italy and external housing built outside Moscow, where it will be installed.

Russia and Italy have entered into an agreement to build a new fusion reactor outside Moscow that could become the first such reactor to achieve ignition, the point where a fusion reaction becomes self-sustaining instead of requiring a constant input of energy. The design for the reactor, called Ignitor, originated with MIT physics professor Bruno Coppi, who will be the project’s principal investigator.

Ignitor would be about twice the size of Alcator C-Mod, with a main donut-shaped chamber 1.3 meters across, and have an even stronger magnetic field. It will be much smaller and less expensive than the major international fusion project called ITER (with a chamber 6.2 meters across), currently under construction in France. Though originally designed to achieve ignition, the ITER reactor has been scaled back and is now not expected to reach that milestone.

The Ignitor reactor, Coppi says, will be “a very compact, inexpensive type of machine,” and unlike the larger ITER could be ready to begin operations within a few years. Its design is based on a particularly effective combination of factors that researchers  unexpectedly discovered during the many years of running the Alcator program, and that were later confirmed in experiments at other reactors. Together, these factors produce especially good confinement of the plasma and a high degree of purity (impurities in the hot gases can be a major source of inefficiency). The new design aims to preserve these features to produce the highest plasma current densities — the amount of electric current in a given area of plasma. The design also has additional structures needed to produce and confine burning fusion plasmas in order to create the conditions needed for ignition, Coppi says.

Welcome to the IGNITOR WWW site

Fusion reactor aims to rival ITER

But scientists doubt that IGNITOR will lead to fusion power.

Italy and Russia plan to fund a compact nuclear-fusion experiment called IGNITOR, according to an intra-governmental memorandum signed on Monday in Milan, Italy. But fusion scientists contacted by Nature have dismissed claims made by its inventor that the reactor is a bigger step towards fusion power than the much more expensive international ITER project.
Günther Hasinger, the scientific director of the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics in Garching, Germany, says that even if IGNITOR is successful it will still require an ITER-like project to scale up because there is no room in the smaller reactor for other components to absorb the energy produced by the fusion reaction.

New project aims for fusion ignition
Ignited plasma in Tokamaks - The IGNITOR project
Fusion reactor aims to rival ITER : Nature News

New project aims for fusion ignition: Ignitor reactor could be world’s first to reach major milestone
Russia, Italy and MIT Working on Ignitor Fusion Reactor
Ignitor: MIT-Projected Fusion Reactor, Built in Italy and Assembled in Russia, Better Than ITER | Nuclear Power
Howstuffworks "How Nuclear Fusion Reactors Work"