Berkeley Lab

“Superconducting Technology for Fusion Energy”

Head shot of Dr. Joseph Minervini

Joseph V. Minervini
IEEE Council on Superconductivity Distinguished Lecturer 2019
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA USA

The world scientific community has spent decades developing and refining magnetic confinement fusion theory and experimental devices for the ultimate goal of safely, effectively, and economically generating power from a nuclear fusion reaction.

Magnet systems are the ultimate enabling technology for these types of fusion devices. Powerful magnetic fields are required for confinement of the plasma, and, depending on the magnetic configuration, dc and/or pulsed magnetic fields are required for plasma initiation, ohmic heating, inductive current drive, plasma shaping, equilibrium, and stability control. All design concepts for power producing commercial fusion reactors rely on superconducting magnets for efficient and reliable production of these magnetic fields.

Future superconducting magnets using high-field, high-temperature superconductors (HTS) are now being developed and can significantly enhance the feasibility and practicality of fusion reactors as an energy source. Their application would enable a new generation of compact fusion experiments and power plants, dramatically speeding the development path and improving the overall attractiveness of fusion energy.

This talk will describe the present use of superconducting magnets for fusion devices and describe how several, small start-up companies, funded by private investment, are creating the future now by developing high-field, high-temperature superconductors and magnets. This will enable a new generation of compact fusion experiments and power plants, dramatically speeding the time for fusion to generate electrical power on the grid and improve the overall attractiveness of fusion energy

About Our Distinguished Guest Lecturer

Dr. Minervini has played a leading role in the field of large-scale applications of superconductors for more than 35 years. This experience derives from his role as a research scientist in the Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) at MIT, where he was also Division Head for Magnets and Cryogenics, and held an academic appointment in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering until his recent retirement from MIT.

His work has spanned the range from laboratory research to management of engineering groups and large-scale projects pursuing advanced superconducting and energy technology goals. His research interests include applied superconductivity, electromagnetics, cryogenic heat transfer, supercritical helium fluid dynamics and low temperature measurements. He has worked on magnet systems covering nearly every major application of large-scale superconductivity including fusion energy, magnetic levitation, energy storage, power generation and transmission, magnetic separation, high energy and nuclear physics, as well as medical applications. Dr. Minervini has over 130 publications in these technical fields. In 2013 he received the IEEE Council on Superconductivity Award for Continuing and Sustained Contributions in the Field of Applied Superconductivity.

He has also won the Award for Technical Excellence in Fusion Science and Engineering from the Fusion Engineering Division of the American Nuclear Society.

Among his recent research interests are the development of very high-field, highly compact, superconducting cyclotron accelerators for medical applications (proton and carbon radiotherapy, and PET isotope production), for security applications (detection of special nuclear materials), and for laboratory research in nuclear physics. He has also investigated the application of High Temperature Superconducting materials to increasing power grid efficiency and efficiency of data centers and for advanced fusion magnet applications.

Dr. Minervini holds a B.S. Engineering degree from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, and the S.M. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the  Massachusetts Institute of Technology.