• Question: You said you worked on fixing a fusion reactor, is it similar to a particle accelerator like the LHC?

    Asked by anon-320550 to Jamie on 1 Apr 2022.
    • Photo: Jamie Smith

      Jamie Smith answered on 10 Mar 2022:

      Hi, thanks for your question!

      There are lots of similarities between a fusion reactor and a particle accelerator. Fusion reactors are fuelled with plasma, a collection of charged particles. The LHC is used to accelerate charged particles. Because of this, they have a lot of design similarities. Charged particles get curved when moving in a magnetic field, so both fusion reactors and particle accelerators use electromagnetic coils to curve their contents to keep them contained.

      The key differences are that a particle accelerator is built for speed, a fusion reactor is built for temperature. This is why the LHC is super super long – it’s easier to get to a fast speed if your curve isn’t tight. With a fusion reactor, speed around the ring isn’t as important. You want the particles to get hot so they shake faster and hit each other.

      It is also worth saying that we use small particle accelerators pointing into the fusion reactor. These are called “Neutral Beam Injectors”. We send a stream of particles into the reactor that hits the plasma to make it shake more. The stream is neutral – meaning it has no charge. This is important so it doesn’t get curved by the magnetic field with the plasma.