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Fusion industry has ambitious plans for 2035, rounding out this year’s Nobel prizes – Physics World


Nuclear fusion is what powers the Sun, and if we could harness it here on Earth it would be a significant source of clean, carbon free energy. Fusion power plants were first proposed in the 1940s and since then physicists and engineers have struggled to overcome a range of technological challenges that have gotten in the way of practical fusion energy.

In the past, most fusion R&D was done in universities and government labs and involved large-scale facilities. Today, there is also a growing number of companies that are developing alternative routes to practical fusion technologies – and some of these companies say that fusion could be delivering electricity to the grid by 2035.

The US-based Fusion Industry Association represents this private sector and it has released a report called The Global Fusion Industry in 2023. In this episode of the Physics World Weekly podcast, the association’s CEO Andrew Holland talks about what the report reveals about the global fusion industry and what companies are doing to try to meet the ambitious goal of fusion power in just 12 years.

Five physicists win Nobel prizes this year

Last week, six Nobel prizes were awarded to 11 people. Five of the new laureates have backgrounds in physics – including chemistry and peace laureates.  Four out the 11 laureates this year are women – which is certainly progress over previous years. However, Anne L’Huillier is just the fifth female physics laureate since 1901, so much more work must be done on diversity and inclusion in physics.

To chat about this year’s Nobel prizes, I am joined by the physics and philosophy student Hannah Schmalstich, who has written a series of blogs for Physics World about historical and societal aspects of previous prizes. One article explored why the physicist Lise Meitner did not win a Nobel prize for her important work on nuclear fission. Our discussion explores connections between the shunning of Meitner and some of the prizes awarded in 2023.


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