Basic fusion research accelerates with infusion of DOE funds

July 7, 2021, 9:28AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science has named seven companies as the recipients of cost-shared funding granted through the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE). A total of $2.1 million in first-round fiscal year 2021 funding was awarded on July 1 across nine collaborative projects between DOE national laboratories and private industry aimed at overcoming challenges in fusion energy development.

INFUSE in brief: The program was established in 2019 by the DOE’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences to accelerate basic research to develop cost-effective, innovative fusion energy technologies in the private sector. It is managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

INFUSE supports challenging research in five topical areas: enabling technologies, materials science, plasma diagnostics, theory and simulation, including artificial intelligence, and research requiring unique DOE experimental facilities. While typical INFUSE awards are less than $250,000 over a one-year period, two-year awards are considered up to a maximum of $500,000 for projects deemed mission critical. Each requires a 20 percent cost share from industry partners.

“After two successful years of INFUSE, it is clear that the program offers significant benefit to the fusion community,” said James Van Dam, associate director of the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences. “This new round of funding shows continued interest in the program as new companies continue to apply, looking to leverage the unique expertise and capabilities available at the DOE national laboratory system.”

First-round awards: “Through partnerships with innovators in private industry, these INFUSE projects will accelerate the development of cost-effective fusion energy technologies,” said Dennis Youchison, director of the INFUSE program and a fusion engineer at ORNL. “Many projects are focused on the near-term technologies needed for accelerated fusion reactor development to supplement carbon-free electricity production and combat global climate change.”

The nine selected projects include participation from seven private companies and five national laboratories:

  • Air Squared will design, test, and evaluate a scroll roughing vacuum pump with filter and vespel tip seals for tritium handling in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
  • Commonwealth Fusion Systems will study active redox control of molten salts for fusion blankets with Savannah River National Laboratory, and under a separate award will investigate layout and performance requirements for SPARC massive gas injection with Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.
  • General Atomics will conduct performance testing of low-resistance demountable high-temperature superconducting joints for large segmented magnets with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
  • HelicitySpace will simulate the helicity drive magneto-inertial fusion concept with Los Alamos National Laboratory.
  • Microsoft will seek improved plasma control capabilities in magnetically confined tokamak systems with transformer neural networks in partnership with Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.
  • Renaissance Americas will work on a phase diagram of Li-LiH,D,(T) mixtures and implications for tritium retention and extraction with Savannah River National Laboratory.
  • TAE Technologies will explore extending operational boundaries in the advanced field-reversed configuration (FRC) with Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and under a separate award will work with Los Alamos National Laboratory on X-ray diagnostics for C-2W FRC plasma.

Second round begins: The submission window for second-round FY 2021 funding applications opened on June 30 and will remain open until August 13. Applicants are encouraged to submit early following the posted requirements.

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