Robinson Research Institute ships New Zealand's strongest magnet to aid clean energy

Wellington Faculty of Engineering’s Robinson Research Institute recently shipped the highest strength magnet ever constructed in New Zealand to the United States as part of a mission to deliver clean, limitless fusion power to the world.

A robot with a series of servers attached marked with the text SuperCurrent Measurement System

Robinson scientists have developed the globally unique SuperCurrent superconducting wire characterisation system specifically for Cambridge-based Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center.

The system incorporates a 12-tesla superconducting magnet designed and built by Robinson’s spin-off company HTS-110 Limited (now part of Scott Technology). As well as containing the highest strength magnet ever constructed in New Zealand, the system features possibly the highest magnetic field achieved anywhere in the world to date using this type of conductor.

The magnet will help CFS measure the electric current capacity of superconductor wires to be used in their tokamak coils, which confine the plasma for the fusion reaction. It is crucial to understand the capacity of the wires in the coils, so that they can operate safely and efficiently in generating the magnetic fields needed for fusion.

Partly funded by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which includes leading industrialists like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and others, CFS was founded in 2018 to deliver the fastest path to clean, limitless fusion power. Its world-class team includes experts in magnets, manufacturing and plasma physics.

Robinson Director Dr Nick Long says, “Working with CFS, a company at the forefront of developing high temperature superconducting technology, is a great opportunity for us. The new wire measurement system, which we have developed exclusively for CFS, highlights Robinson’s ability to produce sophisticated instruments for the global superconductor industry.”

Dr Stuart Wimbush, Principal Scientist at Robinson and co-creator of the system, says, “This system is unique in allowing measurements in the temperature and magnetic field range close to where fusion systems will operate. The automation incorporated in the system will allow for the fast throughput required to effectively characterise the large amounts of wire used in fusion magnets.’”

“Robinson Research Institute has been an invaluable partner in our work to develop to our superconducting measurement capabilities. The state-of-the-art SuperCurrent system will allow us to refine the testing process for this critical component as we work to bring commercial fusion energy to the world as fast as possible,” says CFS Chief Scientific Officer Brandon Sorbom.

Robinson, with support from the University’s commercialisation arm Viclink, works with a number of global blue chip partners aiming to develop new technologies from advanced electric propulsion to energy storage technologies. Named after well-known scientist and researcher Dr Bill Robinson, the Institute delivers world-leading research-based outcomes to its commercial and academic partners in the fields of energy, aerospace and medical technologies.

For more information, contact Dr Nick Long on 04 463 0079 or nick.long@vuw.ac.nz.