U.S. scientists are getting funding to carry out seven research projects at two major stellarator fusion energy facilities located in Germany and Japan, the Department of Energy announced on June 8. A total of $6.4 million has been allocated for seven research projects with terms of up to three years.
A stellar choice: Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) in Germany and the Large Helical Device in Japan are, respectively, the largest and second-largest superconducting stellarator facilities in the world, according to the DOE.
Stellarator facilities offer an alternative to the tokamak fusion reactor design that dominates magnetic fusion research in the United States and around the world. Stellarators have the potential of providing continuous operation without damaging plasma disruptions and with low recirculating power requirements, according to the DOE.
“The early success of W7-X has demonstrated the ability to optimize stellarators for performance, reliability, and simplicity,” said James Van Dam, DOE associate director of science for Fusion Energy Sciences (FES). “These awards will help us assess whether stellarators are a viable option for a future fusion pilot plant.”
All seven of the awards are for work at W7-X, which is located at the Greifswald branch of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP), in northeastern Germany. The IPP website hosts an interactive panoramic tour of the W7-X, where main assembly work was concluded in 2014 and the first plasma was produced in December 2015.
The details: The research topics to be tackled include ion-heat transport within heated plasmas, developing improved methods to measure electric fields and turbulence, and investigating equilibrium stability and control to improve plasma confinement.
The projects were selected by competitive peer review under the DOE’s Funding Opportunity Announcement for Collaborative Research in Magnetic Fusion Energy Sciences on Long-Pulse International Stellarator Facilities. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Wisconsin each received two awards, and the other three awards went to projects proposed by Xantho Technologies, the University of California–Irvine, and a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin and Auburn University.
In addition to the $6.4 million allocated, an additional $1.6 million in outyear funding is contingent on congressional appropriations.