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MIT keeps the dream of unlimited clean energy alive with record-breaking fusion reactor

The pursuit for clean energy has achieved a major leap on the last day of MIT’s 23-year old nuclear fusion reactor.

Nuclear fusion is the holy grail of energy sources, and for a good reason. The same process that is powering our sun would provide us with a nearly limitless clean, safe, and carbon-free energy resource that produces more power than it needs to keep itself running.
On Earth, it can be realized in reactors that simulate the conditions of ultrahot miniature “stars” of plasma — superheated gas — that are contained within a magnetic field. And though good things usually don’t come easily – nuclear fusion being no wild exception – any progress made in this field is great news.
This progress in particular is a straight up world record for plasma pressure, a key ingredient to producing energy from nuclear fusion.
MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center have achieved over 2 atmospheres of pressure for the first time in the Institute’s Alcator C-Mod tokamak nuclear fusion reactor, with the temperature inside reaching over 35 million degrees Celsius, which is approximately twice as hot as the center of the sun.

But we still have ways to go. For over 50 years it has been known that to make fusion viable on the Earth’s surface, the plasma must be very hot (more than 50 million degrees), it must be stable under intense pressure, and it must be contained in a fixed volume. Successful fusion also requires that the product of three factors — a plasma’s particle density, its confinement time, and its temperature — reaches a certain value. Above this value (the so-called “triple product”), the energy released in a reactor exceeds the energy required to keep the reaction going.
Pressure, which is the product of density and temperature, accounts for about two-thirds of the challenge. The amount of power produced increases with the square of the pressure — so doubling the pressure leads to a fourfold increase in energy production.
During the 23 years that Alcator C-Mod has been in operation at MIT, it has repeatedly advanced the record for plasma pressure in a magnetic confinement device. The previous record of 1.77 atmospheres was set in 2005 (also at Alcator C-Mod), while the new record represents 2.05 atmospheres, a 15 percent improvement. The plasma produced 300 trillion fusion reactions per second and had a central magnetic field strength of 5.7 tesla. It carried 1.4 million amps of electrical current and was heated with over 4 million watts of power. The reaction occurred in a volume of approximately 1 cubic meter (not much larger than a coat closet) and the plasma lasted for two full seconds.
Other fusion experiments conducted in reactors similar to Alcator have reached these temperatures, but at pressures closer to 1 atmosphere; MIT’s results exceeded the next highest pressure achieved in non-Alcator devices by approximately 70 percent.
Although the Alcator C-Mod reactor’s funding has been ceased due to budgetary pressures, it went out on a high note. “This is a remarkable achievement that highlights the highly successful Alcator C-Mod program at MIT,” says Dale Meade, former deputy director at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, who was not directly involved in the experiments. “The record plasma pressure validates the high-magnetic-field approach as an attractive path to practical fusion energy.”
Alcator C-Mod is the world’s only compact, high-magnetic-field fusion reactor with advanced shaping in a design called a tokamak (a transliteration of a Russian word for “toroidal chamber”), which confines the superheated plasma in a donut-shaped chamber. C-Mod’s high-intensity magnetic field — up to 8 tesla, or 160,000 times the Earth’s magnetic field — allows the device to create the dense, hot plasmas and keep them stable at more than 80 million degrees. Its magnetic field is more than double what is typically used in other designs, which quadruples its ability to contain the plasma pressure.
Unless a new device is announced and constructed, the pressure record just set in C-Mod will likely stand for the next 15 years. ITER, a tokamak currently under construction in France, will be approximately 800 times larger in volume than Alcator C-Mod, but it will operate at a lower magnetic field. ITER is expected to reach 2.6 atmospheres when in full operation by 2032, according to a recent Department of Energy report.
To understand how Alcator C-Mod’s design principles could be applied to power generation, MIT’s fusion group is now working on adapting newly available high-field, high-temperature superconductors that will be capable of producing magnetic fields of even greater strength without consuming electricity or generating heat. These superconductors are a central ingredient of a conceptual pilot plant called the Affordable Robust Compact (ARC) reactor, which could generate up to 250 million watts of electricity.

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Call for papers Conferences

GCCC 2015: submit your paper until June 23rd!

GCCC 2015, the first International Conference on Green Cloud Computing and Communication, will take place in Salem, India on December 16–18, 2015.

The conference will bring together researchers, developers, and industry professionals to present and discuss recent advances and experiences in clouds, Green cloud computing and communication, giving users and researchers equally a chance to gain better insight into the capabilities and limitations of current systems.

Topics of interest include:

  • Green computing models, simulations, designs, algorithms and paradigms;
  • Efficient virtualization and consolidation;
  • Security and Privacy in Cloud;
  • Next-generation Green Cloud Computing Services and Applications;
  • New energy-aware routing and switching devices;
  • Optimization of green networks;
  • Energy-efficiency in networks;
  • Future of green networks;
  • Performance evaluation and modeling of green networks;
  • Green Smart grid;
  • Trade-offs between performance, energy and other resources in cloud datacenters;
  • Resource efficiency;
  • Architectures and protocols for improving energy efficiency in fixed networks;
  • Green Fixed network planning and optimization;
  • Green ICT and Clouds – theory, practice and experiences;
  • Non-energy relevant green issues, and/or approaches;
  • Energy harvesting techniques and strategies;
  • QoS Improvement techniques;
  • Cloud security, privacy and compliance challenges.

All accepted papers will be published by Springer and made available through SpringerLink Digital Library, one of the world’s largest scientific libraries. Proceedings will be submitted for indexing by Google Scholar, ISI, EICompendex, Scopus and many more. Accepted papers after presentation and extension may be invited to be published in either ACM/Springer Mobile Networks & Applications. Both of the journals are SCI/SCIE indexed.

Important dates

Paper submission due: June 23rd, 2015

Acceptance notification: August 7th, 2015

Camera‐ready deadline: August 25th, 2015

Find full details here.

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News

Do not miss the EAI Endorsed Transactions on Energy Web

Would you like to stay up to date with the latest news on green and energy-efficient ecosystems? The Third Issue of EAI Endorsed Transactions on Energy Web has been published on European Digital Library. Do not miss it!

The EAI Endorsed Transactions on Energy Web are a forum for the most forward looking frontier research undertaken by the international scientific community. The journal publishes original works reporting on prominent advances that challenge traditional thinking to find solutions to the ongoing energy problems spanning from blackouts to green and alternative energy.

What you can find in the journal:

  • User-centric and user-aware smart grids in the ‘energy web’ ecosystem (New ICT networks supporting active power distribution networks that link power sources with consumer demands, allowing both to decide how best to operate in real time);
  • Microgrid-enabling technologies and renewable energy ;
  • Green IT (A) power savvy technologies and alternative energy sources to meet the challenge of climate change;
  • IT-power interdependent Grid (design for resilience of the eNetworked self-healing reconfigurable grid);
  • Liberalized energy markets.

Would you like to know more about the Journal? Click here to find more details.

Categories
Call for papers

GCCC 2015: call for papers

The worldwide growing energy demands together with the increasing depletion of fossil fuels have been recognized as a major challenge that needs to be urgently addressed by society in order to have a sustainable future. This realization has led to a push towards “Green Cloud computing and Communications (GCCC)” that can enable a transition towards a more sustainable society with a reduced carbon footprint is of prime importance. A major role in the “greening” effort to globally reduce energy consumption will be played by Computing, Communication and Fixed networking technologies. All these technologies have to face the critical issues on energy consumption, for example, controlling the energy consumed by the large-scale cloud datacenters.

Therefore, new architectures, systems and related application techniques, such as mobile cloud computing (MCC), software-defined networking (SDN), Fixed Network Connection and hybrid cloud services, are very much needed in cloud computing datacenters and in communication & network devices in order to be more productive and energy efficient, for shaping a “Green” world in the future. This conference will bring together researchers, developers, and industry professionals to discuss recent advances and experiences in clouds, Green cloud computing and communication. The conference will take place on December 16–18, 2015 in Salem, India and will present recent advances, experiences and results in the wider area of green cloud computing & communication giving users and researchers equally a chance to gain better insight into the capabilities and limitations of current systems.

Highlights

  • All accepted papers will be published by Springer and made available through SpringerLink Digital Library, one of the world’s largest scientific libraries.
  • Proceedings will be submitted for indexing by Google Scholar, ISI, EICompendex, Scopus and many more.
  • Accepted papers after presentation and extension may be invited to be published in either ACM/Springer Mobile Networks & Applications. Both of the journals are SCI/SCIE indexed.

 

Important dates

Workshops proposal deadline: 01 June 2015

Paper submission due: 23 June 2015

Acceptance Notification: 07 August 2015

Camera‐ready deadline: 25 August 2015

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  •  Green computing models, simulations, designs, algorithms and paradigms
  • Efficient virtualization and consolidation
  • Security and Privacy in Cloud
  • Next-generation Green Cloud Computing Services and Applications
  • New energy-aware routing and switching devices
  • Optimization of green networks
  • Energy-efficiency in networks
  • Future of green networks
  • Performance evaluation and modeling of green networks
  • Green Smart grid
  • Trade-offs between performance, energy and other resources in cloud datacenters
  • Resource efficiency
  • Architectures and protocols for improving energy efficiency in fixed networks
  • Green Fixed network planning and optimization
  • Green ICT and Clouds – theory, practice and experiences
  • Non-energy relevant green issues, and/or approaches
  • Energy harvesting techniques and strategies
  • QoS Improvement techniques
  • Cloud security, privacy and compliance challenges

Find full details here.