Nuclear fusion start-up ‘Pulsotron-4’ reactor sets magnetic field record

13 Nov 2020

The Pulsotron-4 reactor during testing. Image: Advanced Ignition SL

A Spanish nuclear fusion start-up said its Pulsotron-4 reactor has generated a magnetic field larger than any it had before, while also damaging it.

Advanced Ignition SL, a Spanish start-up working in the area of nuclear fusion, has said its technology has set a new personal best. While researchers generally admit that it will still be a long time before we can replicate the power of the sun within a reactor, the start-up said its new Pulsotron-4 reactor of the Z-pinch kind generated a record magnetic field in its second test round.

The magnetic field generated was 10 times larger than in the previous Pulsotron-3 and the first to recover electric energy from plasma and measured in at 5.34 megateslas, a unit of magnetic flux density. In the following test it was measured more than four megateslas in the three magnetic sensors.

However, this appeared to be too much for the Pulsotron-4 reactor as the tests burst several seals of the reactor and several other parts.

“While it was repairing, the team refurbished almost all the reactor adding additionally two capacitors banks to work together in a new configuration,” the company said in a statement. “As a result, the energy recovery from the plasma doubled the previous one, revealing a new path to improve the energy generation.”

UK army chief has plans for robot soldiers

The head of the armed forces in the UK, general Nick Carter, said in an interview with Sky News that the country’s army could comprise 90,000 human soldiers and 30,000 robots by the 2030s.

While just an estimate, Carter spoke about the need for long-term investment in order to have confidence in modernisation. While the publishing of a multi-year spending review was delayed earlier this year as a result of Covid-19, the document will lay out a plan to reduce the amount of traditional armoured units in favour of lighter and agile weaponry, as well as cyberweapons and autonomous vehicles.

“I suspect we can have an army of 120,000 of which 30,000 might be robots, who knows,” Carter said when asked whether a review would reduce the number of serving human soldiers.

“But the answer is we need to open our minds to perhaps numbers not determining what we should be doing but rather the effect that we can achieve, is really what we should be looking for.”

AI-controlled road junctions installed in Manchester

Vivacity Labs and Transport for Greater Manchester have announced the roll-out of AI-controlled ‘smart’ traffic junctions to accommodate other travel modes, such as cycling and walking, in the city during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vivacity Labs said its sensors with in-built AI can anonymously identify different types of road users at selected junctions and control traffic signals to allow different modes of transportation to be prioritised as and when required. When the sensors spot cyclists or anyone else not in a car, it will give them priority when appropriate.

“Since the pandemic, commuter trends and traffic hotspots have changed completely and cities need AI to help protect people no matter what mode of transport they take,” said Mark Nicholson, CEO of Vivacity Labs.

“Our vision is to help cities implement critical policies addressing safety, air quality, sustainable travel and congestion, at a hyper-local level.”

Report claims fuel-cell cars will be ‘commercial failure’

Hydrogen fuel-cell cars will be a commercial failure over the next two decades, according to a report published by IDTechEx. The authors said that fuel-cell cars currently cost more than 1.6 times the amount of a battery-electric car and cost three times as much to run.

A fuel-cell car’s reliance on Li-ion batteries for high power and energy harvesting makes it more expensive. The report added that fuel cells have more moving parts, which means maintenance costs can be higher than a battery-electric car.

“[Fuel-cell cars] will have wider uptake in certain countries with a strategy for a broader hydrogen economy, but this will be regionally isolated and not the global trend,” IDTechEx said in a release about the report.

“It will also prove a disadvantage for automakers having to develop different zero-emission vehicles for different regions, particularly as start-ups focus purely on [battery-electric cars] and set the bar high. In short: if a battery can do it, it is currently the best value option for the consumer and environment. And a battery can do it for cars.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic