The Superconductivity Group (SPC-SG) is specialized in the development and testing of superconductors for nuclear fusion magnets. It is located in Villigen, Switzerland (map) at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), also a member of the Domain of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology.
Leading concepts for experimental fusion reactors rely on the magnetic confinement of plasma (Tokamak, Stellarator). The required field distributions are generated by complex electromagnetic systems (one third of the reactor investment) with demanding requirements, e.g. high magnetic field, large field volume, high current density and high power efficiency. These requirements can only be fulfilled by using superconductivity, i.e. the flow of electric current without any resistance at cryogenic (very low) temperatures.
Although the technology of superconductors made remarkable progress for applications like medical diagnostic imaging (MRI), NMR, particle accelerators, electronics, etc. and even revolutionary new materials with relatively high operating temperatures were lately discovered, the development of superconducting coils for fusion reactors remains a singular technical challenge.
Most of the problems of sophisticated engineering, conductor development and material research, are tackled worldwide in the frame of a well coordinated program of collaboration (ITER, EUROfusion) of specialized arbitrators and industrial companies.