February 25, 2016
A team of filmmakers from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) arrived at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) on February 23, to film a segment about fusion for the BBC News program Horizons. Host Adam Shaw interviewed PSFC Director and Nuclear Science and Engineering Department Head Prof. Dennis Whyte about the laboratory’s current project, the Alcator C-Mod tokamak, and MIT’s new vision for a smaller, faster, less expensive approach to fusion research.
In the C-Mod control room Whyte introduced Shaw to plasmas, the fuel for fusion, using a glow discharge tube and an attached magnet to demonstrate how magnetic fields can be used to confine hot plasma by deflecting it from the walls of the tokamak.
Shaw was particularly interested in what MIT considers a game-changing advance in magnet technology – thin, superconducting tapes made of rare-earth barium copper oxide (REBCO), which can create stronger magnetic fields for magnetic confinement. The greater magnetic fields would allow a fusion device to be smaller, and consequently less expensive than machines built with older technology.
The segment on MIT will be included in a half-hour program that explains the science behind fusion, as well as the practical applications going forward. The BBC film will also feature two of the PSFC's international collaborations — ITER, the large next-step tokamak being built in southern France, which has benefited from Alcator C-Mod research, and the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator in Germany, which is among the PSFC’s newest collaborations.