Why do we need filaments for fusion?

Filamentised superconductors can overcome the obstacles of one key piece of the puzzle to realising fusion reactors. 

One of the key technologies that will help drive the sustainable energy transition, is fusion power. To make fusion power economically viable and scalable we need to further advance superconductor technologies, such as those we are developing as part of the FILAMENTS4FUSION Eurostars project.

Magnetic confinement fusion reactors fuse atoms together, releasing vast amounts of energy – the same way that stars are powered. Compared to coal or oil, fusion can generate many million times more energy from the same mass of fuel, with 25 g of fuel providing enough energy to fulfil the lifetime demands of the average European.

And it does this, without creating any CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions during power generation. There is no long-lasting radioactive waste left over, and no risk of a reactor meltdown. Fusion is a green, clean, safe, and abundant energy supply, which can provide the baseload electricity our cities and industries need.

Most proposed techniques for achieving fusion conditions, rely on creating incredibly strong magnetic fields to compress and contain the fuel as a plasma at hundreds of millions of degrees C. Superconductors are the prime materials for making electromagnets creating these magnetic fields, being able to produce stronger and more efficient fields than regular conductors.

However, they are not perfect – pulsed magnetic fields cause some energy losses and heating within the superconductor as well as varying mechanical strain, requiring better cooling and reducing both efficiency and operating lifespan. The innovative twisted filament superconductor tapes being developed as part of the FILAMENTS4FUSION project help overcome these challenges. They reduce the energy losses and leverage mechanical loads, allowing higher performance and longer operation, making fusion reactors more robust and efficient.

Through the Eurostars-funded FILAMENTS4FUSION project, SUBRA A/S, THEVA, Etch A/S, and IEE SAS are enabling the most advanced superconductors for fusion reactors.