Harnessing the power of the sun
Experts in the Fusion Energy Division (FED) are pursuing the understanding and the associated technology required to deploy economical fusion energy systems. Through domestic and international efforts, these scientists and engineers are developing the physics basis for creating and sustaining plasmas at temperatures hotter than the sun, delivering next-generation fusion materials that can withstand this extreme environment, and pursuing technologies for efficient fuel production and energy extraction.
Using state-of-the-art theory and modeling coupled with advanced measurement techniques and experimental analysis, the division is building a foundation for sustaining burning plasmas, a key milestone for fusion research that will first be demonstrated in ITER. This includes developing the capability for long-pulse, high-performance operation while ensuring adequate power exhaust and particle control.
Alongside that, they’re creating the subsystems that will be needed to turn a burning plasma into a commercial nuclear plant: fuel cycle and power extraction; approaches for heating, fueling, and controlling plasmas; advanced engineering systems; and ways to remotely monitor and control the devices.
FED is also providing the research needed to develop and deploy the Material Plasma Exposure eXperiment (MPEX)—a next-generation linear plasma device that will be built at ORNL. MPEX will support the study of the way plasma will interact long term with materials within future fusion reactors. The division also leads the Department of Energy’s Innovation Network for Fusion Energy program (INFUSE), which is focused on driving cost-effective fusion energy technologies through private-public research partnerships. The division also hosts the Virtual Technology Laboratory (VLT) which supports the fusion science community in enabling technologies to advance plasma science experiments and pursue innovative solutions for materials and technologies needed for realizing fusion energy.
Fusion energy is a low-risk, no-waste, environmentally friendly water-derived energy source that has tremendous potential to dramatically change how we power the world. When that happens, the work of ORNL’s Fusion Energy Division will have played a crucial part.
I believe opportunities exist to develop new cutting-edge programs that tackle some of the most challenging aspects of fusion energy development.