34th Ewing Event: The Road to Fusion

By Paul Fears | 04 January 2023

Matthew Swallow, Bunting’s Technical Products Manager and Vice Chair of the UK Magnetics Society, reports on the society’s 34th Ewing Event held at the University of York in the UK in December 2022 and sponsored by Bunting.

The 2022 Ewing Event was entitled ‘The Road to Fusion’ and looked at the magnetic technologies involved in achieving commercial fusion. Of all applications of magnetic technology, nuclear fusion offers the most significant potential benefit. The ability to generate emission-free electricity from simple fuels has been a dream for centuries and an achievable goal for decades. The talks gave a general state of play with the idea of commercial systems being available in five years, as well as the design of components and systems.

Ewing Event, University of York 2022

A Review of the 34th Ewing Event – Matthew Swallow, Chair of UK Magnetics Society

The Ewing Event is not just another conference around a topic in Magnetics; it is an end-of-year social gathering of the entire Magnetics Community. Whilst the ongoing goal of the UK Magnetics Society is to bring together specific magnetic engineers, scientists and academics to talk, learn and conduct business, the Ewing Event is also a time to get together over a drink and some good food and catch up with people you may not have seen for some time. It is not always easy to make lasting friendships with people you work with when they are remotely located across the country, and evening social interaction happens too infrequently. However, the MagSoc is not just an exhibition or a conference; it is a community run by and for its members. For me, this difference is what helps our community foster uniquely close relationships, and the Ewing Event is often the only time that people who work together actually see each other.

With this in mind, the MagSoc decided to combine the support of the ‘Magnetics in Fusion’ community with a day-time conference and evening social event, in the hope that the exciting topic of ‘Fusion’ and the chance to see friends and colleagues from the wider magnetic community would boost participation and attendance. Sadly, this hope and belief were not fulfilled as much as we might have liked and whilst it was a great day and a good evening, it would have been great to have seen more people enjoying learning more about this fantastic topic.

These events do not just happen without some significant input, and the UK Magnetics Society committee was a little light on direct fusion engineers. Therefore, having reached out, we were pleased to bring Howard Wilson, Damian Hampshire and James McKenzie into the organisation team. Together with the events team, we pulled off a great event that looks like it will run on a two-year cycle, with Fusion Engineers joining the MagSoc committee for the first time.

Our outreach into the fusion community was strongly supported by Women in Fusion, who helped Min Liao, Section Leader for Magnets at the ITER Organization, get a visa for the UK, which allowed her to speak at our event. We are very grateful to all of our speakers for giving up their valuable time during the day and their companies for releasing them.

The Ewing Event often includes our lifetime contribution award, and this year, with the focus being on fusion, we asked for recommendations for someone in the magnetic fusion arena to receive the award. One standout name kept coming up, and we were thrilled when Elizabeth Surrey of UKAEA accepted the honour. As I read about Elizabeth’s lifetime work, I was awed by the brilliant career of this woman, and I was proud to present her with the award. Next year the lifetime contribution award might be presented at the MMA23 in a slight departure from tradition.

UK Magnetics Society Ewing Event 2022
Matthew Swallow presenting Elizabeth Surrey with a lifetime achievement award at the Ewing Event 2022

For me, the two main takeaways from the day were:

Young Engineers think things will be fine, whilst older Engineers are worried they will not. The contrast between some of the talks represents the time needed to develop Fusion technology. Steps into the unknown have been taken, which have repeatedly proven to have been wrong. However, the presentations demonstrated that lessons had been learned and that scientists are building on the work undertaken over the past two generations. Research and development is now moving at a pace that was impossible ten years ago.

Secondly, fusion is coming. It is coming for the reasons I mentioned above, but also because more people than ever are undertaking research and development, but now with private money and more focus.

For me, fusion is the energy source that can power carbon capture from 2050 onwards. 2050 is not just the end of CO2e but the tipping point when we can no longer afford to put CO2 into the atmosphere and actually need to start taking it out. I doubt that will happen with just trees and environmental management. Still, I believe it could happen with fusion power pulling it out of the atmosphere and restoring the planet’s natural balance.

It has been an honour to become involved with this community, and I wanted to thank Bunting for allowing me the flexibility within my role as the company’s Technical Product Manager to support the Fusion-based Ewing Event.

We have already started planning for Ewing 2023 and are looking at a venue in the Midlands [UK] for an event at the end of November. Further details will be available to the MagSoc community in early January 2023.

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