ENEA’s Superconductivity Lab just achieved a world record in their research into superconducting cables. The Italians designed and built a rectangular Cable-in-Conduit Conductor which has demonstrated a performance exceeding the requirements of the world’s biggest experiment to come: ITER.

Tokamaks need a large magnetic field in order to control the very hot plasma of fusion experiments. This requires a lot of electrical current and this is supplied by superconducting cables. Their unique feature is to transport electricity without losing precious energy to electrical resistance.

The superconducting cable from ENEA will be inserted into DEMO’s magnets. Picture: EUROfusion / Luigi Muzzi

The superconducting cable from ENEA will be inserted into DEMO’s magnets.
Picture: EUROfusion / Luigi Muzzi

ENEA aims higher

Mission six of the European fusion roadmap deals, amongst others, with advanced cable solutions for DEMO, the first demonstration fusion power plant, while mission 7 is aiming towards economically attractive solutions. Scientists from EUROfusion’s Italian Research Unit ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) have now successfully created a cable which has achieved a record performance of 81.7 Kiloamperes; 10,000 times more than what ordinary computer cable is capable of. This current is also 20 percent greater than what is needed for ITER’s magnetic field.

18_Tabelle

With a little help from the Swiss lab

The work at the Italian lab started in 2013 and the final tests were carried out in April this year at the Swiss Plasma Center (SPC). The Swiss Research Unit has also developed an innovative conductor concept demonstrating the same improved performances as ENEA.

LUIGI MUZZI We can’t really tell what it was that put the smile on the face of Italian researcher Luigi Muzzi. Maybe it was the major success in his research on superconducting cables. Luigi and a team from ENEA’s superconductivity lab have achieved a solution which satisfies the demands of the first fusion power plant, DEMO.

LUIGI MUZZI

“SPC is the only facility worldwide which was able to test our cable under the required conditions with regard to magnetic field, temperature and current”, says Luigi Muzzi, Coordinator of Research&Development and Qualification activities for DEMO magnets, from ENEA’s Superconductivity Laboratory in Frascati.

Making fusion cheaper

The improvements in conductor design have been well received by EUROfusion’s Power Plant Physics and Technology (PPPT) Department which puts the design and development of DEMO in the right context. “Large superconducting magnets for fusion reactors are critical and very expensive components; making them cheaper and more compact whilst retaining high performance is an important step towards increasing the attractiveness of fusion power”, says Gianfranco Federici, Head of the PPPT Department.