You’ve probably heard about the promise of nuclear fusion before… many times. But when MIT is involved, it’s best to listen up. The university has teamed up with Commonwealth Fusion Systems, and they believe that clean, limitless power could be just around the corner. Thanks to the development of a new superconductor, the team believes that they can have a working fusion power plant on-grid within the next 15 years.

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Scientists have been trying to make nuclear fusion happen for decades, and for a good reason – it could provide nearly endless clean energy without the risks associated with nuclear energy. In the 1950s, scientists theorized that nuclear fusion was just a few decades away. Then, after that failed to materialize, scientists in the 1970s said that it was just a few more decades away. Cut to today, and it seems like we are no closer to nuclear fusion power… until now.

Related: ‘We were blown away’ – researchers eliminate obstacle to fusion energy

So what makes this time different, I hear you ask? The team says that a new type of superconductor that just became available is the breakthrough they were looking for. Part of the problem with making nuclear fusion happen is that you have to be able to heat things up to a mind-boggling 150 million degrees, which turns most containers into plasma.

MIT and Commonwealth plan to use this new superconductor – made of steel tape coated with yttrium-barium-copper oxide – to make magnets that will help make nuclear fusion a reality. “This is an important historical moment: Advances in superconducting magnets have put fusion energy potentially within reach, offering the prospect of a safe, carbon-free energy future,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif.


Via Fast Company

Images via MIT