Scientists have created a novel electromagnet that could help gadgets ranging from tokamaks (doughnut-shaped fusion reactors) to medical instruments that capture detailed human body images.
Tokamaks rely on a central electromagnet, a solenoid, to generate electrical currents and magnetic fields that confine the plasma (a hot, charged state of matter made up of free electrons and atomic nuclei) so that the fusion reaction can occur. However, the insulation around the electromagnet’s wires may deteriorate over time after being exposed to powerful subatomic particles known as neutrons released by the plasma, limiting the tokamak’s potential to harness fusion power.
In this novel type of electromagnet, metal acts as an insulator, preventing particles from harming it. It would also function at higher temperatures than present superconducting electromagnets, making maintenance easier. Fusion combines light components in the form of plasma to produce massive amounts of energy, which drives the sun and stars. Scientists seek to duplicate fusion on Earth to generate electricity from a nearly endless power source.