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A revolutionary new high-temperature superconducting tape could be the secret to smaller, highly efficient fusion reactor design.

This new invention could prove revolutionary in the attempt to develop sustainable nuclear fusion, according to a report by IEEE Spectrum. It was developed by Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) and comes after decades of research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

According to Interesting Engineering, the tape is layered and stacked to form powerful electromagnets that can contain the plasma and prevent most charged particles from colliding with the walls of the tokamak (an experimental device that creates a nuclear fusion reaction).

Superconducting materials, when cooled below a specific temperature, can conduct direct-current electricity without resistance or energy loss. High-temperature superconducting (HTS) magnets can operate at much higher temperatures than the superconducting magnets that are typically used in tokamaks, which often require more complex and costly cooling systems involving liquid helium.

Despite the term “high temperature”, HTS materials actually function within a range of -200 degrees Celsius to -250 degrees Celsius. Although still very cold, this temperature range is significantly warmer than the temperatures required for typical superconductors, which can only operate at temperatures close to absolute zero.

Scott Hsu, a senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the agency’s lead fusion coordinator said in an interview with IEEE Spectrum: “These new materials are allowing a new path to fusion energy because, in addition to their superconducting abilities at higher cryogenic temperatures, they are also able to go to very high magnetic fields… These properties provide the possibility to design smaller, less complex, and lower-cost fusion systems that are quicker to build and easier to take apart for maintenance.”

For the past 40 years, the fusion energy field has been focused on constructing increasingly larger machines, but the small tokamaks being developed by CFS could change this trend.

This information was provided by Interesting Engineering.