Researchers at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center have built a reactor capable of generating temperatures four times hotter than the center of the sun. They were able to do that by doubling the pressure at which plasma is pumped into the reactor, and generating 300 trillion fusion reactions a second, Silicon Republic’s Colm Gorey reported.

MIT Professor Dennis G. Whyte

This breaks a world record and brings the center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) closer to its goal of building a commercial hot fusion reactor. The Center’s Director Professor Dennis Whyte thinks such reactors might up and running and feeding electricity into the grid within 15 years.

Whyte thinks new superconducting technology will allow researchers; including his physicists and grad students, to create magnetic fields strong enough to contain a fusion reaction. Last year Whyte even claimed that it might be possible to achieve such a reaction with off the shelf technology within 10 years.

He noted that researchers at MIT regularly generate temperatures of 100 million degrees to achieve fusion reactions. They can do that only because of really strong magnetic fields that enable them to create stronger fusion reactions.

Supercomputing is helping fusion researchers by allowing them to analyze and model complex energy systems, Whyte told Commonwealth Magazine.  His team is working on a design for the ARC; or Affordable, Robust and Compact, a commercial hot fusion reactor.

“We did the engineering calculations and found a surprising result: a rather compact device can make 250 million watts of net electricity,” Whyte said. That would be enough energy to power a city of 107,000 people, or a community about the size of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where MIT is located.

The Alcator Hot Fusion Reactor at MIT.

If true that would put the coal industry out of business and greatly reduce the demand for natural gas. Both coal and natural gas are widely used to generate electricity.

It would also do serious damage to the oil industry by providing unlimited amounts of power available for electric vehicles. That means it might be cheaper to operate electric cars than oil.

Battery Costs have Dropped by 65%

Battery costs are falling so dramatically that electricity might displace oil as the energy source of choice in vehicles, Bloomberg New Energy Finance and McKinsey & Co. discovered. A report from the two organizations found that the cost of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 65% since 2010.

The biggest impact will be in the taxi industry which will see costs drop dramatically. Battery costs dropped to $350 a kilowatt hour in 2015, in 2010 the same battery cost $1,000 a kilowatt hour.

Another report from Fitch Ratings predicted that demand for oil and the oil industry itself will start contacting dramatically within the next few years because of new battery technology. Among other things that might cause losses of to $3.4 trilllion in the auto industry Fitch predicted.

It looks as if the energy industry is about to be changed beyond recognition by disruptive technologies even if cold fusion never arrives. The world might be a very different place within 20 years.