Video: Inside the Record-Breaking Fusion Reactor

At 150 million degrees Celsius it is hotter than the sun, and scientists from across the world visit the UK to work on the fusion reactor that holds the world record for creating the most power from fusion.

When the latest series of experiments start, in the middle of June, the scientists hope it will be start of a path to set a new world record for the amount of energy produced.

The fusion reactor, JET (Joint European Torus), and the UK’s own compact version, MAST, are both housed at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, UK.

Factor visited the site and spoke to fusion scientist Dr Maximos Tsalas about the work being done at the centre.

At present the JET reactor at the centre in England holds the world record for the amount of fusion energy created, and has done since 1997.

When it was set the machine managed to create 60% of the power which was put into it. However the scientists at the centre are looking to beat this in coming years.

They want to be able to break even, which will be a significant hurdle to achieve in the longer road to commercialisation.

Maximos said: “For the moment we have a key set of experiments that is going to happen in the next five years. With these we are going to do a campaign where we are going to aim to try and break the fusion record again.

“This is a very important set of experiments which will tell us a lot about the future and the next generation of reactors, which is basically ITER. We hope to solve some of the key problems in this campaign.

“After this it is a bit more difficult to see where the future of JET is as we still have yet to define the timescale on which these experiments will happen.”

The centre of JET’s reactor, known as the tokamak.

When operational Maximos says JET, which has been a joint European project for 25 years, can have up to 500 people working on it at once – but it can be run by 20 people at very minimum.

To enter the room where JET is located it involves several levels of security and also entry through an airlock.

While it is running there is no access JET and each experiment is ran from the control centre.

To enter in periods where it is not operational humans can entre but only wearing a pressurised suit.

However robotic arms controlled by engineers are able to make repairs and improvements to centre of the reactor – which is called the tokamak.

When running it creates around 15gb of data every 30 seconds – however when fusion reaches a commercial scale it will be a simpler machine due to the removal of the monitoring equipment that is in place for the scientists.


“JET is a very complicated machine, In order for it to start operating first we need to start a very strong magnetic field then we put in some gas inside and then we make what is called the plasma,” said Maximos.

“We use various methods to heat it up to very high temperatures – typically temperatures reaching 150m degrees Celsius.

“If you were to go inside the tokamak what you could see is a donut shaped vacuum vessel which has a very high vacuum.

“We create a very high vacuum and after that we inject some gas and we try to heat it up again. What you would see if you went inside there, you wouldn’t see that much as everything is covered by a lot of machinery.

“You will see magnets a lot of diagnostics which measure various things, you could see vacuum vessels, you will see a lot of pumps and so on.

“But the important thing is at the heart of the machine is a very large donut shaped vessel where all the action happens.”

 See our piece tomorrow on the future of fusion power and what it could mean for the world.

Images courtesy of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.

Steve “Woz” Wozniak to advise hologram emoji company that he calls “groundbreaking”

Apple’s co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak has found himself a new gig; Woz has joined the hologram emoji company, Mojiit, as an adviser.

In his role as advisor to Mojiit, the legendary entrepreneur and engineer will help assemble a world-class engineering team in addition to bringing investors and partnerships to the newly launched startup. Wozniak will also serve as mentor to Mojiit founder, Jeremy Greene.

“I’m thrilled to join Mojiit as an advisor,” said Wozniak. “Jeremy is a natural leader, the company is groundbreaking, it’s going to change the ecommerce space, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Created in 2017, Mojiit is the latest startup technology venture from Greene. The company’s tech essentially enables users to project and share 3D hologram emojis via smartphones.

The platform turns users into emojis by scanning their face, which can then be sent to loved ones and friends. Once a Mojiit message is received, it will map the area where it is received and place the Mojiit hologram there in real time, so it works in a similar way to Pokemon Go.

“Steve is one of the best and brilliant engineers in the entire world. But outside of that, he’s a wonderful man,” said Greene. “There isn’t anyone I’d want to be in business with more than this guy. He’s a legend. Who better to learn from than the guy who created the computer?”

Image courtesy of Nichollas Harrison. Featured image courtesy of Mojiit

In addition to consumer use, businesses of all kinds can tap into hologram emojis with Mojiit’s technology.

Mojiit investors already  include NFL alum Ed Reed, and the company was able to raise a total of $1 million in its seed round of funding.

Alongside the appointment of Woz, Entourage and Ballers producer Rob Weiss recently joined the company as a creative director.

“It’s exciting to expand beyond television and film to digital platforms,” said Weiss. “Hologram technology brings incredible opportunity to entertainment and media. I’m thrilled to be leading creative at Mojiit.”

Nanoengineers send antibiotic-delivering micromotors into the body to treat cancer-causing infection

Nanoengineers have demonstrated for the first time how “micromotors” that measure half the width of a human hair can be used to transport antibiotics through the body.

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego tested the micromotors in mice with Helicobacter pylori infections, which can also be found in about two-thirds of the world’s population and while many people will never notice any signs of its presence it can cause peptic ulcers and stomach cancer.

The mice received the micromotors – packed with a clinical dose of the antibiotic clarithromycin – orally once a day for five consecutive days.

Afterwards, nanoengineers evaluated the bacterial count in each mouse stomach and found that treatment with the micromotors was slightly more effective than when the same dose of antibiotic was given in combination with proton pump inhibitors, which also suppress gastric acid production.

Micromotors administered to the mice swam rapidly throughout the stomach while neutralising gastric acid, which can be destructive to orally administered drugs such as antibiotics and protein-based pharmaceuticals.

Because gastric acid is so destructive to traditional antibiotics drugs used to treat bacterial infections, ulcers and other diseases in the stomach are normally taken with additional substances, called proton pump inhibitors.

But when taken over longer periods or in high doses, proton pump inhibitors can cause adverse side effects including headaches, diarrhea and fatigue. In more serious cases, they can cause anxiety or depression.

The micromotors, however, have a built-in mechanism that neutralises gastric acid and effectively deliver their drug payloads in the stomach without requiring the use of proton pump inhibitors.

“It’s a one-step treatment with these micromotors, combining acid neutralisation with therapeutic action,” said Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila, a postdoctoral scholar in Wang’s research group at UC San Diego and a co-first author of the paper.

The nanoengineers say that while the present results are promising, this work is still at an early stage.

To test their work, the team is planning future studies to into the therapeutic performance of the micromotors in animals and humans, and will compare it with other standard therapies used to combat stomach diseases.

UC San Diego nanoengineers also plan to test different drug combinations with the micromotors to treat multiple diseases in the stomach or in different sections of the gastrointestinal tract.

Overall, the researchers say that this work opens the door to the use of synthetic motors as active delivery platforms in the treatment of diseases.

Image and video courtesy of the Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics at UC San Diego.