DOE Announces $42M for Inertial Fusion Energy Hubs

December 11, 2023

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2023 — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $42 million for a program that will establish multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary hubs to advance foundational inertial fusion energy (IFE) science and technology, building on the groundbreaking work of the Department’s researchers into harnessing the power of the sun and stars.

The hubs will be led by researchers at Colorado State University, the University of Rochester, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where last year a team successfully achieved fusion ignition for the first time, proving that creating energy from fusion is possible. Fusion has the potential to provide abundant, reliable, and non-carbon-emitting energy, and President Biden has set a goal of demonstrating a proof-of-concept for several different types of fusion power plants in 10 years as part of the effort to achieve the Administration’s ambitious climate and energy goals.

“Harnessing fusion energy is one of the greatest scientific and technological challenges of the 21st Century,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “We now have the confidence that it’s not only possible, but probable, that fusion energy can be a reality. The scientists in these hubs will be the vanguard of game-changing and planet-saving breakthroughs.”

Projects funded by the program—known as Inertial Fusion Energy Science and Technology Accelerated Research (IFE-STAR)—will bring together expertise and capabilities across DOE’s National Laboratories, academia, and industry to advance IFE system components. Inertial confinement fusion is a leading approach to fusion that uses lasers or other technologies to compress and heat high-density plasmas. IFE-STAR projects will develop high-gain target designs; high-efficiency lasers at high repetition rates; and IFE-relevant fusion target manufacturing, tracking, and engagement. A major component of the funded projects is stewardship of the inertial fusion ecosystem, including the development of an inclusive and diverse workforce.

“The University of Rochester’s Lab for Laser Energetics (LLE), fueled by its 400 Rochester workers, has long been on the cutting edge of energy, science and technology. Just last year scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, supported by Rochester’s LLE, produced a nuclear fusion reaction with a net energy gain – a major milestone in fight against climate change and creating cheap, clean power,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY). “That’s why I’ve always fought to secure funding for the Lab and its innovative scientists and students as they work to advance the future of clean energy. As one of only three such hubs in the nation, this funding from the U.S. Department of Energy guarantees that Rochester’s LLE will lead the way towards a future no longer reliant on fossil fuels and ensures they can continue their vital work for years to come.”

“Fusion energy has the potential to provide clean, safe, and bountiful energy to support America’s domestic energy supply and meet our climate goals,” said U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (CO). “I have no doubt that Colorado State University will play a key role in advancing important fusion energy breakthroughs and help Colorado continue to lead the country in clean energy innovation.”

“This action from the Department is an important step to accelerate the advancement of inertial fusion energy solutions. I was happy to join the Secretary when she launched the IFE-STAR program during a celebration of the breakthrough achievement of fusion ignition at the National Ignition Facility last year. I am happy to see these research hubs launched across the country today,” said U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (CA-18), Ranking Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. “I have been a strong advocate for the establishment of this very program for well over a decade. I’m encouraged that the Department is now following through on the strong direction provided by Congress in the bipartisan Energy Act of 2020 and the CHIPS and Science Act and look forward to continuing to track the progress of each of these impressive research teams.”

“I am thrilled that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF)—a cutting-edge nuclear research facility located within my district—was selected to receive $16 million to advance fusion energy technologies,” said U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-14). “The Inertial Fusion Energy Science and Technology Accelerated Research (IFE-STAR) program will enhance global energy security, while highlighting the scientific advancements already made at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.”

“I’m incredibly grateful to Secretary Granholm and the Department of Energy for recognizing the University of Rochester’s potential in the emerging field of Inertial Fusion Energy (IFE) research,” said U.S. Representative Joe Morelle (NY-25). “For generations, Rochester has been synonymous with innovation, and it has long been my priority in Congress to launch our next chapter of regional growth and prosperity. This federal investment in our community’s scientific excellence will encourage our legendary innovation and unlock the next level of clean, safe, and carbon-free energy for the entire world.”

Inertial confinement fusion has attracted greater interest and attention due to breakthroughs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility, where on December 5, 2022, researchers achieved scientific breakeven, meaning more energy was released from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it. The researchers have since repeated the result three times.

The IFE-STAR projects aim to continue progress by addressing priority research opportunities outlined in the IFE Basic Research Needs Workshop report as well as common scientific and technological gaps in the anticipated technology roadmaps of IFE fusion companies participating in the Office of Science’s Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program. Unlike magnetic confinement fusion, which aims to sustain a burning plasma for long durations, IFE will be repetitively pulsed. One of the goals is to develop the science and technology required to move inertial fusion from low-gain, single-shot experiments toward high gain and high repetition rates as required for a potential IFE pilot plant.

The 2013 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy recommended establishing a broad-based IFE program upon the achievement of laboratory fusion ignition. The Energy Act of 2020 and the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 directed DOE to carry out an IFE research and technology development program. Now that ignition has been achieved and following the direction in the legislation, DOE is establishing an IFE program via IFE-STAR.

The selected projects will build on and significantly leverage the world-leading capabilities, expertise, diagnostics, and facilities that exist due to sustained DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration investments in support of science-based Stockpile Stewardship, which uses scientific capabilities to certify America’s nuclear stockpile without nuclear explosive testing. IFE-STAR will also significantly expand upon IFE research that was jointly funded by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) and Office of Science starting in 2020 under the ARPA-E Breakthroughs Enabling Thermonuclear-fusion Energy program.

The members of the three hubs are:

Inertial Fusion Energy-Consortium on Laser-Plasma Interaction Research hub 

  • University of Rochester (leader)
  • Ergodic LLC
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Xcimer Energy Corp.

Inertial Fusion Science and Technology hub 

  • Colorado State University (leader)
  • Cornell University
  • General Atomics
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Marvel Fusion
  • SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
  • Texas A&M University
  • U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Xcimer Energy Corp.

National Science and Technology Accelerated Research for Fusion Innovation & Reactor Engineering hub 

  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (leader)
  • Focused Energy
  • Fraunhofer ILT
  • General Atomics
  • Leonardo Electronics US Inc.
  • Livermore Lab Foundation
  • Longview Fusion Energy
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Savannah River National Laboratory
  • SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
  • Texas A&M University
  • TRUMPF
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of California, San Diego
  • University of Oklahoma
  • University of Rochester
  • Xcimer Energy Corp.

The projects were selected by competitive peer review under the DOE Funding Opportunity Announcement for Inertial Fusion Energy Science and Technology Accelerated Research. Projects will last up to four years with total funding of $42 million, including $9 million in Fiscal Year 2023 and $33 million in outyear funding contingent on congressional appropriations.

The list of projects and more information can be found on the Office of Science’s Fusion Energy Sciences homepage.

Selection for award negotiations is not a commitment by DOE to issue an award or provide funding. Before funding is issued, DOE and the applicants will undergo a negotiation process, and DOE may cancel negotiations and rescind the selection for any reason during that time.


Source: DOE Office of Science

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