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Magnetic confinement fusion: energy that imitates the stars

A game-changer technology for decarbonization is magnetic confinement fusion, which is based on merging two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium. Thermal agitation enables fusion to take place inside a gas ionised at a very high temperature called plasma, which must be confined in a high vacuum, within a limited space and without coming into contact with the machine’s surfaces. This is accomplished by using a tokamak, a doughnut-shaped device (toroid) which, through an extremely powerful magnetic field generated by super magnets placed around the chamber, creates plasma at extremely high temperature and swirls it around the toroidal chamber without allowing it to come into contact with the walls. “Turning on” a fusion reactor involves inserting a blend of deuterium and tritium into the tokamak, heating it to a plasma state and then, by increasing the temperature further, bringing it to the point where fusion can take place. The fusion process releases highly energetic neutrons, which are soaked up in a “blanket”: this is a thick coating that contains the fusion chamber. In this global challenge that involves a wide range of international talent in industrial science and technology, Eni collaborates with CFS (MIT spin off), ENEA and CNR.