CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and Italo Rota created a new project with energy company Eni to explore how the future of fusion power plants will look. It’s called magnetic confinement fusion, and it’s one of the best possible futures for sustainable energy production.

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An aerial view of a pavilion area with three circular fenced zones

Rome’s Maker Faire is hosting the installation, held in a former gasholder. The installation is a concept design of a future Tokamak reactor, to help us envision what tomorrow’s power plants will look like.

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Although this is an art installation, the idea behind this installation is to educate the public about this new breakthrough technology. Hosting the project at a maker fair is intentional, designed to spark ideas in a creative population of designers, engineers and makers across Europe.

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The Tokamak reactor exhibit was intentionally placed in a location known for Italy’s former industrial heritage, Gazometro Ostiense, located three kilometers southwest of the Colosseum. Inside a 50-meter high, 40-meter wide gasholder, visitors can explore the conceptual model of a new kind of power producing reactor, an important piece of magnetic confinement technology. Multimedia exhibits around the reactor model in a circular corridor illuminated with red lights teach visitors about the new technology and the science going into its development.

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“Magnetic confinement fusion is a clean technology that has the potential to be one of tomorrow’s key decarbonization solutions,” said Carlo Ratti, founder of CRA and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab. “With the project, we wanted to start an open-design process to imagine how fusion power plants will be integrated in sub-urban areas – prompting makers and architects alike to join a discussion on our future energy landscape.”

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This is also an important point: clean energy has to be produced somewhere. And the plans we make today to lay out a functional clean energy grid can make a big difference for a clean energy future and livable cities and countrysides.

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Additionally, Eni’s work on magnetic confinement is highlighted through this project. Over the last few years, the energy company collaborated with several academic labs and institutions, including the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) and the energy company Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS).

An aerial view of circular inflatable red object enclosed by a metal fencing

Here’s how it works: During the process of magnetic confinement, the fusion of two hydrogen nuclei releases a large amount of energy. It’s kind of like what happens inside the sun and other stars. This technology does not emit greenhouse gases or highly radioactive substances. It is considered safe and virtually inexhaustible.

+ Carlo Ratti Associati

Images via Moreno Maggi