Unlimited Power: An Engineer's Low-Down on Nuclear Fusion Technology

Talk by James Pope (he/him) 👩‍👧

Sunday from 10:40 AM - 11:10 AM in Stage A

Most technical people hear about fusion power in the news or see it in games and movies, and are familiar with the joke that it's always 20 years away. Beyond this, it's surprisingly rare to find good information beyond the basic physics and the marketing promise of unlimited, clean energy. As an engineer working in the fusion technology sector, I give a primer on how fusion power works, why its benefits are so incredibly tantalising yet hard to achieve, what the latest exciting developments are, and how the UK is a surprising trailblazer. I outline some of the cutting-edge technologies involved in developing fusion power, including superconducting magnets, plasma control using deep learning methods, and hypersonic fuel injection. The audience is also given facts and figures to get a flavour of the unimaginable scale of what is being done: materials at nearly 0K adjacent to plasmas hotter than the cores of stars, gigawatts of power from teaspoons of fuel, magnetic fields multiple times more powerful than MRI machines, and neutron fluxes strong enough to transmute matter in bulk. Coming away from this presentation, the audience will have learned about the fundamentals of nuclear fusion and appreciate the key issues enough to put the marketing and news reports into context. They might even be excited and enthused about what's to come in this quickly growing technology space.

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