LIYSF Day 9: Fusion, Oxford, and Duct Tape (P)

Hi everyone,

Today, I visited the Culham Fusion Centre. Unlike many Nuclear Fusion research centres, they accepted the joke that “Nuclear Fusion has been 30 years away for the last 60 years”. However, they provided an explanation: Material science is bottlenecking progress, not the underlying physics, so all we need is more engineers working on the many challenges with fusion.

I found the centre fascinating. First, we visited the control room, a room covered screens (which we weren’t allowed to take pictures of). Later, we observed the tokamak reactor itself, which set a world record for the most ‘efficient’ fusion reaction ever take place (65% of the energy put in was produced). At first, this seems like a massive waste of power (the reactor uses 1% of all English electricity when running at full blast). However, the data that the reactor produces and only losing 35% of the energy offers great hope for the future.

The JET (Joint European Tokamak) nuclear fusion reactor

Our guides discussed a new reactor (ITER) under construction in the south of France. It will use superconducting magnets and other fancy modern technology, as opposed to the 70s and 80s tech in this reactor. It (theoretically) will produce 10x the energy out as the energy in and can run for far longer than the JET reactor. Although all of these numbers may seem dry and boring, they promise that humanity could someday produce almost infinite amounts of energy using nothing but seawater and lithium.

Following the Nuclear Fusion Centre, I visited Oxford, the hometown of my Grandfather. I wandered around the town for a couple of hours, admiring how old and ornately decorated the buildings were.

Classic Oxford Architecture

Finally, this night, an Australian and I auditioned a version of this trick in the hopes of performing it at the talent show tomorrow night. Hopefully, the judges will select us to perform in front of all of the LIYSF attendees.