Probably the most widely publicized design for a magnetic fusion generator is based on a tokamak, a huge, donut-shaped magnet. The precisely shaped magnetic field it creates has been proven to be capable of containing a fusion reaction (just not while using less energy than the fusion itself creates). The costs are also prohibitive, as with the test model for ITER’s 30,000 pound super-conducting Slinky which recently arrived. Just as we’re finding with MRI machines, super-cooled magnets are a limiting factor for fusion power, and so we then developed another design called a spheromak — a magnetic fusion machine that creates its confining field by running current directly into the sphere of plasma at the power station’s heart.
This is obviously a huge improvement to the tokamak, but as you might imagine, just pumping electricity into a sample undergoing fusion isn’t very precise. Spheromak designs had the theoretical advantage in cost and efficiency, but struggled to show that they could actually work. Then, two years ago, this University of Washington team published an idea called imposed dynamo current drive (hence “Dynomak”), a proposed model for predicting the magnetic field based on the injection of outside magnetic fields. This was hailed at the time as having huge implications for fusion power, and now we’re seeing some hard numbers to that effect.
So now we have Lockheed, Polywell, and Dynomak all requiring funding to move forward. The sad part is I know massively more funding than these require were used in the bank and car maker bailouts. BOOOOO